Lewis Dunk has hailed Brighton boss Chris Hughton for helping him mature into a top-class defender.
Hughton celebrated four years at the Brighton helm on December 31, having steered the Seagulls to Premier League stability in that time.
Centre-back Dunk cited his England debut in the 3-0 win over the USA at Wembley in November as a personal highlight for 2018, crediting Hughton for helping him realise his international ambition.
“I’ve had a few managers at this club, and he’s definitely up there with the best I’ve had in my career,” Dunk told Brighton’s official club website.
“It’s massive to have him at the club. He’s been massive for my development. I think I’ve come on leaps and bounds since he’s been in charge.
“I’ve become more and more consistent and he’s calmed me down as a player.
“A few years ago I was getting a lot of bookings and I’ve calmed down recently.
“That’s probably down to talking to and learning off him, because he was a defender too.”
Asked to pick out a 2018 highlight, Dunk continued: “From a personal point of view, it would be my England debut.
“I worked very hard to get there and to make my family proud was a great thing for me.
“To see them after the game was a great honour.
“Hopefully I can stay in the squad until I retire. I’ve just got to keep performing well in the Premier League, while showing the manager what I can do.”
Brighton turned the year in 13th in the Premier League, and will open 2019 with a trip to face West Ham on Wednesday night.
Dunk hailed former Republic of Ireland defender Hughton for helping Brighton realise that long-held Premier League dream – then insisted the Seagulls will not lose sight of their main objective, that of top-flight safety.
“He’s taken this club to the next level after it had had been trying to reach the Premier League for a long time,” Dunk added.
“For him to actually do it is a great achievement for the club and the whole city. It’s a massive credit to him.
“We’ve got to look above us but we’re nowhere near safe and we’ve got a long way to go.
“There’s just under half a season to go and we’ve got to perform as well in the second half as the first.
“If we do that then I’m sure we’ll be fine. We’ve got to keep pushing on, pick up as many points as we can, and not get carried away with ourselves.”