Hammond’s shock return pays dividends

Dean Hammond

At around 9.45pm on Transfer Deadline Day, I received a text from my Dad. ‘We have signed Stephen Dobbie, David Lopez and Hammond’ it read. ‘Ah, Stephen Dobbie, that should go a long way to solving our striker problem’, I thought. ‘David Lopez…. I’ve never heard of him, but he sounds Spanish, and every Spanish player Gus Poyet ever signs turns out to be fantastic, so he’s bound to be another astute signing.’ Hang on though, the only ‘Hammond’ I know is Dean, surely we haven’t signed him?!

A quick flick through my mental encyclopedia of British footballers still only revealed the one match. Either Dean Hammond had returned to the club which gave him his break in professional football, or we’d signed the little bloke from Top Gear.

It’s probably fair to say that Dean Hammond wasn’t the most popular man amongst the Amex faithful prior to signing his season-long loan deal three weeks ago. After initially leaving the club to join Colchester in January 2008, he ended up an integral part of Nigel Adkins’ revolution along the coast in Southampton. Given our clubs’ rivalry over the past few seasons, a former Seagull is never likely to be particularly popular when turning out for the Saints, but Hammond secured his status as the ultimate villain during our meeting on April Fools’ Day 2010.

After scoring Southampton’s first equaliser in a 2-2 draw, Hammond ran the length of the Withdean touchline, cupping his ear in the direction of the home fans, and yelling a series of phrases which I won’t repeat on a family website. We don’t forget things like that quickly around these parts – just ask Scott McGleish, who did something similar after scoring for Leyton Orient in April 1997, and still gets booed to this day whenever our paths cross.

Despite all that though, it really was Dean Hammond who signed on the dotted line that Friday evening, not the co-presenter of a BBC motoring programme. You have to admire the guys balls to be frank. Lesser men would have turned their back on the opportunity, and continued to trouser their wage from the St Mary’s bench.

With the fans’ reaction to Hammond’s return lukewarm to say the least, Hammond moved fast to apologise for his previous misdemeanors, claimed he is a changed man, and vowed to do his talking on the pitch. So far, he hasn’t disappointed.

His performance in the 3-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday last Friday was superb, the type of performance only a top quality player could give. He wasn’t exactly shabby in the midweek win at Watford either – even the most unforgiving of Albion fans will soon forget the actions of April 2010 if he keeps this form up.

So, what of Poyet’s other deadline day signings? Dobbie and Lopez – along with Andrea Orlandi who signed on the morning of August 31 – have only made brief appearances thus far, so it would be harsh to judge them just yet. Lopez has the makings of an excellent signing given his pedigree though – no player gets in Athletic Bilbao’s side without being a very decent player. My hunch is that he’ll become another gem of a signing by Poyet.

Scotsman Dobbie may not be the most glamourous of our deadline day signings, but it was no secret that we desperately needed a new striker – hopefully he will become the perfect foil for the born-again Craig Mackail-Smith.

As I’ve written before in this blog, Mackail-Smith was probably the biggest disappointment of last season. That doesn’t look like it’s going to be the case this time around though. Macca has struck six times in his last four games – easily the best form of his Albion career. Suddenly, the £2.5m we paid Peterborough for his services just over a year ago seems worth every penny. Every time Macca scores, we take the three points – his goals and general play have played a massive part in our brilliant start to the new campaign.

If Mackail-Smith has been doing the business up front, Bruno has been the star of the show at the back. I’ve supported Brighton for 16 years now, and this man could possibly become the best player I have ever witnessed. Whether it is snaffling the oppositions threat at one end, or setting up chances at the other, he simply has it all. His assist for Mackail-Smith’s first goal in the rout of Wednesday was incredible. Even with Macca being in the form it is, it was still Bruno’s name that was being sung from the rooftops as the celebrations started on that fine evening. How he is not playing in the Premier League I do not know.

Another recent signing that really should be playing in the top flight is Tomasz Kuszczak. The Polish goalkeeper has been in stunning form already this season – conceding just three goals in six league games is a cracking effort. He simply oozes confidence at all times, a marked change from from the heart attacks Casper Ankergren and Peter Brezovan gave us all last season!

So, it may only be six games in, but Albion seem to have found the perfect combination of strikers who can’t stop scoring, and defenders who don’t give the opposition an inch. Could this really be our year? If we keep up this form, it could be you know.

Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger

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