(Picture: Action Images via Reuters)
Brighton star Anthony Knockaert is hoping to return to his top-form after the death of his father, which he calls the ‘toughest moment of my life.”
The winger’s 63-year-old father, Patrick, passed away at the beginning of November and Knockaert was unavailable for the trip to Bristol City on Bonfire Night, as he was mourning in France, and has understandably struggled in the three games since his return.
It has been an emotional season for the Frenchman, who also played on the anniversary of his brother’s death at the start of the campaign, and he told BBC Sussex: “It is still a bit tough for me but I am trying my best to be back at my level as soon as possible.
“The last two games I started weren’t my best, but that is a normal thing. It was physically and mentally hard.”
At Ashton Gate, Knockaert’s team-mates lifted a shirt with his name and number on when celebrating Steve Sidwell’s stunning opener, a real show of brilliant team spirit.
A host of Brighton players, along with boss Chris Hughton, also attended Patrick’s funeral in France as a show of support to their beloved colleague, and the former Leicester player was incredibly touched.
“The team have been great to me and brought me the best support they could. I’d like to thank them for what they did,” Knockaert said.
“It has been the best thing I have seen in football, to come all the way from England to the funeral. It means a lot for me and my family and I will never forget it.”
High-flying Brighton take on in-form Leeds at the Amex this evening in what is a huge game at the top of the Championship, and the Seagulls can go top with a victory over the play-off chasing Whites.
Knockaert knows how tough it will be, but is hoping to play his part and help his side go one step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of Premier League promotion.
“Some mornings are really hard as you think about it – I won’t see my dad any more,” said the 25-year-old.
“Obviously I need to get back to business and the best way to do it is work hard on the pitch and the gym to get my fitness back.
“I just need to keep working hard and make my dad even prouder than what he was.”