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Brighton boss Potter keen to protect rising star Connolly

Brighton boss Graham Potter says 19-year-old Aaron Connolly needs to be protected following his rapid rise from academy prospect to international striker.

Connolly made his debut for the Republic of Ireland last weekend, coming off the bench in the goalless draw in Georgia before playing the opening 69 minutes of Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Switzerland.

The teenager’s elevation to national team level followed two goals against Tottenham on his first Premier League start less than a fortnight ago.

Potter is thrilled with Connolly’s early progress but keen to ensure he does not fizzle out.

“He’s had quite a couple of weeks, hasn’t he? We have to look after him, make sure that he has a long successful career,” said Potter ahead of Saturday’s game at Aston Villa.

“But he was great in the (Spurs) game for us, not just his goals, I thought his overall contribution to the team was really good, pressed well, defended well.

“And then just for him to get that international debut, it’s fantastic for him – disappointed obviously for him and the Irish boys that the result wasn’t what they wanted.

“But that’s part of life as well, he has to deal with that and it’s now case of recovering him and seeing how he is for the weekend.”

The emergence of Connolly and summer arrival of Neal Maupay, who claimed the other goal in the 3-0 win over Spurs on October 5, has restricted the first-team action of last season’s top scorer Glenn Murray.

Potter praised the attitude of 36-year-old striker Murray and feels he is an ideal mentor for Connolly and Maupay.

“It’s been impeccable, to be honest. Really, really supportive of the lads,” Potter said of Murray’s response to being sidelined.

“They’re two young guys but having someone like Glenn around helps them enormously and he’s selfless in that regard, speaks to Aaron, speaks to Neal, wants them to do well.

“All the guys in the group have got huge respect for him.

“The way he’s been amongst the players, the way he’s been with the young guys has been fantastic. And you need those players around when you’ve got a couple of young lads, it’s so important.”

Potter also revealed winger Leandro Trossard has returned to training following a groin problem and could be involved at Villa Park.

The Belgian, signed from Genk in the summer, has not featured since the 4-0 defeat at Manchester City on August 31.

“We need to be careful with him, he’s probably not ready to start at the weekend, I think that’s fair to say,” said Potter.

“We’ll make a decision over this afternoon and tomorrow to whether he’s in the group.”