Inside A-Leagues prodigy’s EPL rise: ‘Just play like you’ve got your pants down!’

From A-Leagues to the Premier League - Aussie starlet outlines Socceroos ambitions

Four years after swapping Sydney FC’s academy for the bright lights of the Premier League, Olyroos forward Cameron Peupion has set his sights on achieving big things with both Brighton & Hove Albion and the Socceroos in 2024-25. He sat down with’s James Dodd…

“I think I’m ready for first team football, whether that’s the Premier League or whether it’s another league, another country. I definitely see myself trying to play first team football on a regular basis.”

Cameron Peupion knows what he wants and is ready to do whatever it takes to prove his worth this coming season.

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Having already earned himself debuts for Brighton in the EFL Cup, FA Cup and most notably the Premier League, the young Aussie is now ready to establish himself as a regular for the Seagulls as they begin a fresh chapter in their history.

“I’m obviously going to try and show myself and see where I land in terms of a new manager and see where that takes me. If I’m not in contention for playing in the Premier League this season then that maybe means a loan move away to try and get experience.

“I think it’s so important to get some games in to get that experience. Obviously I didn’t get that in League One but I do think I’m ready… whether that’s another country or in England.”

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Key to the next phase of Peupion’s career is newly installed Brighton head coach Fabian Hurzeler. Appointed following the departure of Roberto De Zerbi, the 31-year-old German arrives in West Sussex with an air of excitement about him having recently guided FC St. Pauli back to the Bundesliga, and Peupion is aiming to impress his new boss when he returns to the UK.

“It’s exciting, especially for a young player trying to break through into the first team.” said Peupion when discussing the appointment of the new Seagulls head coach, who at 31 becomes the youngest full time appointment in Premier League history.

“I’ve been training with them, but I’ve not broken into the team, not broken into the system yet. It’s a bit of a fresh start in terms of being able to show yourself and hopefully the manager likes you.

“He’s an exciting manager (who’s) obviously worked with Australians before. So you never know on that part. I’m just going to go in as hard as I can, like I would do anyway, and show myself and see what pre-season gives and hopefully all goes well.”

Overlooking the ocean as the sun sets on another mild winter’s day on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Peupion cut a relaxed figure at home despite the nightly hustle and bustle of a family springing to life following their respective days at school and the office.

Switching between French and English with as much ease as playing a simple pass, conversation turns to the off-season and how he’s spent his time back at home with mum and dad but, crucially, who he’s supporting at Euro 2024…

“Well my Mum would be annoyed at me if I didn’t mention that I’m half English as well,” laughed Peupion, as he speaks of the split loyalties he feels in the family home during the course of the tournament. “So I should be going for England, which I am!

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“But I think my Dad’s drilled into me from a young age that you know, I’ve gotta go for France when it comes to football. So we were up the other morning watching them against Austria, me and my dad in the living room at 5am.

“So, yeah, I’ve been following them, hopefully the French can do it. They’ve got a strong team, obviously England have a good team as well. So they’d be my two teams!”

Rewind the clock four years or so and the bilingual conversations around the dinner table about football or school were something a then 17-year-old Peupion would come to miss dearly, as he swapped the safe, family environment for life on his own in a foreign country – one that would see him go a full year without seeing his loved ones due to COVID-19.

Beginning in the Seagulls academy with their under-18s, it wasn’t long before the young Aussie progressed through the ranks and moved up to the under-21s set-up and with it, Premier League 2 football.

“I learned a lot in the PL2, coming up against good players, first team players dropping down from other clubs. I remember playing against Cole Palmer, who’s obviously doing really well now (with Chelsea), so there are players there who are top level.”

Growing week by week, Peupion’s good form at PL2 level didn’t go unnoticed and a first team debut in the EFL Cup duly arrived in 2022; head coach Roberto De Zerbi was clearly keeping an eye on the talented young forward.

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Back with the PL2 side once again, the Aussie finished the season in blistering form, contributing six goals and three assists in just five matches as he was named PL2 Player of the Month for April, but the best was yet to come.

With a gruelling Premier League season going down to the wire and Brighton battling to secure European football for the first time in their history, Seagulls boss De Zerbi included Peupion in his matchday squad for an away trip to Champions League-chasing Newcastle United.

As the clock ticked over to the 85th minute on Tyneside and with Brighton chasing an equaliser, De Zerbi threw caution to the wind. With a raucous St James’ Park no doubt ringing in his ears, on came the fresh-faced Australian to tick off another milestone moment in his burgeoning young career – much to the joy of both the travelling Brighton fans and the adopted Seagulls supporters watching on in the early hours of the morning on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

“When he (De Zerbi) told me I was going to make my debut in the Premier league he pulled me after training and just said to enjoy (it) and play like a normal Under 21s game,” remembers Peupion.

“He said just play free like you’ve got your pants down – and then he pulled his pants down!”

So with a Premier League debut now under his belt, Peupion was seemingly well on his way to achieving the ultimate goal: Establishing himself as a first team regular. The next step? More minutes.

“It didn’t go as well as I hoped it would have,” reflected Peupion on the beginning of the 2023-24 season where he was sent to then English League One side Cheltenham Town. “I would have liked to have played more but that’s part of football, you have these kind of down periods and these ups and downs.

“After two weeks the manager (Wade Elliott) that wanted me to go there to Cheltenham got sacked, which is again part of football. When the new manager (Darrell Clarke) came in he basically just wanted to change completely how they played football and didn’t think I suited the system as a technical player.

“He wanted to just play like long balls and play for long throws and, you know, proper down-the-league table football. So look, it was an interesting challenge and experience…”

Initially sent out on loan for the entire campaign, Brighton had seen enough and opted to recall their young talent in January, and it was a decision that proved beneficial to Peupion’s career.

“I got recalled, came back to Brighton and basically have just been with the first team for the last six months. Training with top players in that kind of environment, traveling to pretty much every game, involved in some squads and got a first start as well in the FA Cup.”

Much like his experience before making his Premier League debut, Peupion recalls the moment he found out he’d be starting for Brighton in their FA Cup Fifth Round clash away to fellow Premier League side Wolves… and it was another classic De Zerbi moment.

“I think I’d trained quite well the day before and then the next day I got a text saying the gaffer wants to see you in his office. So you kind of think that’s going to be one of two things; you’re either going to get a bollocking or it’s going to be a good thing!

“So I had no idea what he was going to come out with – I was a bit nervous going in there to be fair! He had his Italian assistant just sitting there and he was at his desk. I sat down and he made a bit of a joke, telling me that I was going to be playing with the Under-21s on the weekend.

He continued: “I was like, okay, sure – I didn’t really know how to take it. But then he’s like, ‘No, I’m just kidding, you’re starting tomorrow!’ with just a straight face.

“I was just a bit taken aback but I told him I felt like I was ready for it and he said good because I deserved it. He said I’ve been good in training and this is all on me (De Zerbi), there’s no pressure on your side of things just play how you would anytime you train, anytime you play with the Under 21s – there’s absolutely no pressure. Any mistake you make that’s on me not on you.

He continued: “So that kind of gave me a bit of confidence and belief. Leading up to that game in the FA Cup, I think he told everyone in the meeting who was starting and all the lads got right behind me and were saying you’ve deserved it and you’ve been training really well.”

Of those senior players at Brighton, arguably the teammate that’s had the biggest influence on Peupion’s career is a man who’s won club football’s biggest prizes.

A Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup winner with Liverpool, 34-time England international Adam Lallana has taken the young Australian under his wing since the pair began training together at Brighton and it’s a relationship Peupion believes has been beneficial for both players.

“I think most of the senior players at Brighton are good in that way, helping the youngsters kind of get to the next level and improve us but especially Ads (Lallana), he’s been top with us.

“Obviously he’s hard with us in training and gets on to us but we know it’s never personal and he’s just trying to get us to the next level. But yeah, especially with me, just talking to him at lunch or breakfast, hearing stories, what it’s like working under Jurgen Klopp or, you know, the different situations he’s been in.

“He kind of took me under his wing a little bit in terms of, you know, he’d be hard on me in training and then he’d come after training and sit down with his laptop with me. He’s obviously doing his coaching licenses so I think he enjoyed that side of it as well in terms of the tactical side of it.

“So he would sit me down and we’d go through training together which was cool to be fair because it’s a bit of a pinch yourself moment when you think about his career and what he’s done. But he takes the time out of his day to try and help me and make me a better player. So yeah, it’s kind of a nice thing that he he’s done that really.”

Adam Lallana (L) alongside now former Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi

While the 2023-24 season was certainly a special one for Peupion, it too was one that will live long in the memories of Brighton fans around the world as for the first time in the club’s 122-year history, the Seagulls took flight in Europe.

Europa League group stage wins both home and away against Dutch giants Ajax as well as victories over French side Olympique de Marseille and Greece’s AEK Athens saw De Zerbi’s men storm through as winners of Group B to tee up a mouthwatering clash against AS Roma in the Round of 16.

Cue another pinch yourself moment for Peupion.

“Obviously, I came back from a loan spell and I didn’t even know if I’d be allowed to be in the Europa League squad,” laughed Peupion as he reflects on being included in the matchday squad for Brighton’s away trip to face Roma in the Eternal City.

“It didn’t really hit me until probably the bus on the way to the game. Like obviously, there was the whole build up and we trained in the stadium the night before, but yeah, I say kind it kind of hit me when we were on the bus on the way there.

“The whole of Rome stops to bad mouth you and try and stop the bus. It was quite a surreal experience. Then it hit me that, you know, I’m gonna be on the bench in the Europa League and in Rome, against Roma, and got I got a bit emotional on the bus.

“I thought about, you know, where I’d come from. Watching European football at 4am (in Sydney) as a young kid to then coming all the way through to England. I just thought about when I was a kid and what I dreamt of.

“You don’t really stop to think about what you’re doing or where you’ve come from because you’re so focused on the next thing and the next thing and getting to the next level, the next goal, that you rarely kind of think about where you’ve come from.

“But yeah, from where I’d come from, to being you know, on a bus traveling to a Europa League game was quite special.”

Whether Peupion remains at Brighton this season or is sent out on loan in search of more valuable first team minutes remains to be seen, but whatever happens, the 21-year-old believes he’s now reached that stage of his career where club football isn’t the only target on his radar.

“That’s another dream that I want to accomplish… play for (the) Socceroos,” said Peupion as the conversation turned to his future. “But I think that it will come in the right time. I think that if I was to be playing first team football on a regular bases, I think those things will come.

“I try and focus on my club and that side of football and hopefully if I get more appearances and I’m playing more then those bonuses and those dreams can potentially come true.

He continued: “I’m at a level where I think I’d be able to (play). You have to be confident in yourself. Obviously, you don’t want to come across (as) arrogant or anything like that but yeah, I’ve had lots of conversation with some of my friends who I’m pretty close with – Patrick Yazbek and Jordan Bos – who I played in the Olyroos with.

“I have conversations with them in terms of what the level is like and even in the training with the Socceroos. I wouldn’t say I’m far off. I just think that to get picked, you need to be playing on a regular basis. If I’m training with a Premier League side like Brighton and I don’t feel far off from trying to get into the team there and trying to prove myself I think that I’d be in and around it with the Socceroos as well.

“The next next step for me is to try and be playing on a regular basis with the first team whether it’s at Brighton or on-loan somewhere and yeah, hopefully get the call up.”

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