Danny Welbeck exclusive: Brighton forward on recovering from injury, mental resilience and looking ahead

"It's not always great to dwell on the past and - you have to look forward and see how you can improve." Watch Brighton vs Southampton on Monday Night Football from 7pm on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 8pm

Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring for Brighton against Aston Villa
Image: Danny Welbeck spoke exclusively to Johnny Phillips about his time at Brighton so far

"I think once I'm in top shape, I'll be a threat to every single defence that I come up against."

Brighton and Hove Albion's last two Premier League matches have represented a significant marker for striker Danny Welbeck. For the first time since September last year, he has played two full 90 minutes. For a man who has spent too much of his career battling injury problems, that feeling of being fit and able to contribute to the team over entire games has been particularly satisfying.

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"It's definitely one thing I knew I could get back to doing, it's just getting that opportunity to get a run of games," he tells Sky Sports. "I didn't have much of a pre-season so I came into it a little bit late, but I'm feeling sharper as each game passes and I'm looking forward to getting plenty more games under my belt."

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Welbeck arrived at Brighton after a turbulent spell at Watford, who were relegated last season. He has found a stable environment with a chance to thrive again.

"It's not always great to dwell on the past and I think you have to look forward and see how you can improve," he adds. "There were offers from elsewhere but Brighton sold the football to me, along with the coach and the people around the club. It's structured very well and it's a club I'm excited to be part of. It's been really easy for me to settle in, I'm enjoying it."

Having been part of Gareth Southgate's England squad at the last World Cup, Welbeck's Arsenal career was seriously hampered by the horrific ankle injury he suffered in November 2018 during a Europa League game against Sporting Lisbon. Since then he has been desperate for the opportunity to put together a run of matches as a Premier League starter.

Danny Welbeck suffered an ankle injury for Arsenal against Sporting in November 2018
Image: Welbeck suffered a serious ankle injury for Arsenal against Sporting in November 2018

"You have to have that mental resilience to overcome the injuries," he explains. "You're missing a lot of football at the time you're out with injuries, so it's a lot of physical and mental work that goes into it. I think there's plenty of ways you can mentally benefit.

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"You can watch football and analyse games, your past games and see where you can improve, watching areas where maybe you weren't producing the goods where you'd like to get to that level. Once you get back on the pitch that's where you can put your learning into action."

Welbeck is a keen student of other sports and one book he refers to is Relentless, by Tim Grover, who was Michael Jordan's personal trainer during his great success years at the Chicago Bulls. The book lays down a blueprint for discovering what elite athletes are capable of achieving by trusting their instincts.

"That's one you can always go back to and have a read over," Welbeck says. "It instils a mentality into you that you have to work hard every single day, there's no time to rest on your laurels, you've got to give it your all.

So does the role of striker require the greatest mental strength, where performances are often unfairly measured by quantity of goals?

Johnny Phillips spoke to ex Arsenal and England team-mates Welbeck and Theo Walcott ahead of their south coast reunion on Monday night

"Yeah, I think goalkeepers will tell you different, but being a striker you want to be in amongst the goals, a threat to the opposition, to try to get the numbers as high as possible. But it's the same in a lot of occupations in life, you're going to be judged on results."

Six years have passed since Welbeck left his childhood club, Manchester United. His early experiences at Old Trafford shaped his outlook during a professional career that has brought 42 caps for his country.

"As a young man growing up, coming through the academy at Man Utd there's always a mentality that's put in place. It's one where they want you to work hard but be as good a person as possible. I think your mentality and humility comes from how you have been brought up.

"My parents and family played a massive role in that. I still keep in touch with Sir Alex Ferguson and there's not many better people to go to for advice and to talk to."

Welbeck turned 30 last month but with a clean bill of health believes his best football could be ahead of him. In Graham Potter, he has found a manager who can draw out more from his all-round game.

Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring for Brighton against Aston Villa
Image: For the first time since September last year Welbeck has played two full 90 minutes

"Tactically he brings a lot to the table, he lets every single player know how we need to play games as a collective in our approach to matches," Welbeck adds. "There's no stone left unturned and that helps the boys going onto the pitch. We know how we are going to play and attack the opponent. He speaks to you every day, if you want to chat to him his door is always open."

Welbeck has signed a contract until just the end of the season. It is a low-risk deal for the club, who have struggled to score goals during their three-year Premier League stay, registering a fraction under a goal a game. Their failure to capitalise on opportunities has been a particular characteristic of Potter's time at the club.

Welbeck offers something different to both Aaron Connolly and Neal Maupay in attack, and is acutely aware he has been brought in to make a positive difference. But he does not feel under any extra pressure to earn a longer-term deal.

"It's not one of those things where I'm looking ahead thinking: 'I've got to do this or got to do that'. I think every single week is a vital week so I'm looking forward and preparing as best as I can, just being ready for the next game ahead."

Danny Welbeck is backing Amex's Shop Small campaign to encourage the nation to support their local businesses on Small Business Saturday, rewarding Cardmembers when they spend in any participating small business across the country from 5-20 December. For more information visit: americanexpress.co.uk/shopsmall

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