List Member Galleries
When Brighton told me I was being released
You’ve been great for us but we’re not prepared to renew your contract for next season.” The words I think every player fears and dreads, so when I heard them from my (now former) manager Chris Hughton, I felt a whole range of emotions. I’m at the stage in my career that I knew what might be coming but at the same time you can never prepare for it. I’ve been released and just like every player who has experienced the scenario there is no way to ready yourself.
Disappointment is immediate along with the relief of at least knowing the decision. Then you question yourself and you feel failure, worry, fear and anxiety that any person in any line of work would feel when losing their job. I appreciate how privileged I am
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to do a job I love and get well paid for, and I understand people who say flippantly it’s OK for the likes of me who have had a long career and all the benefits that come with that. But the sheer emotion of having to break
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the bad news to my wife and children who are happy in the area and at their school and having to come to terms with the fact my chances of playing at the very top level again are extremely slim makes everything daunting, painful and testing.
As sportsmen and competitors we have been taught and conditioned to never give up, to keep fighting when things are against you and to have faith in our ability, so when all of those things come to a point when your services are no longer needed, when you’re no longer required, it is an extremely bitter pill to swallow no matter how much you try to prepare and know that day will come. I’ve enjoyed an incredible three years at Brighton, a
period of stable improvement year on year. To have gone from the pain of missing out on automatic promotion by one goal, bouncing back and going up the next season and then beating Manchester United at home to
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ensure we retained our Premier League status has been nothing short of a fairytale.
This journey has been led by Hughton, a manager full of humility, respect, empathy and confidence in himself because of his detailed planning and preparation for games. But behind that, supporting him, was a club with synergy where every single member of staff, the players and the supporters
were fighting for the same goal. All of them had a
shared vision and sense of accountability of where they wanted to go and, more importantly, what needed to be done to get there.
It amazes me when we analyse football how little we take into account the human element of the game – we can all talk about systems, tactics and team selections but what actually makes the difference is the people operating on and off the pitch. Are they diligent, resilient, honest, caring and supportive as characters or do they point fingers at the first moment of hardship and worry more about themselves than the benefit of the group?
At Brighton we never had that problem. That’s why it worked and I hope the philosophy of person first, player after is continued. There are so many people at the club I want to thank, who I have learned from and benefited from being in their presence. It makes it impossible to name them all but I’m confident they know how grateful I am for their help.
I would, however, like to highlight the influence of two who are intrinsic to the wellbeing and success of the club’s players. The captain, Bruno, is the most dedicated, gifted, charismatic
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and caring footballer I have ever come across. At nearly 38 he is playing for, excelling and leading a Premier League club from a position at full-back where pace and stamina are two of the biggest attributes needed. He is an example that the so-called impossible can be achieved with hard work, confidence and passion, and he sums up everything good about the game we love.
The second is one of the “invisible” people who is never mentioned on the pitch but is the oil in the machine and proof it is the work of the collective, not just the “stars” that helps achieve success. Steve Gibbon is the player liaison officer and is a man who fixes every problem possible for a club – his job is to take the pressure off players with anything and everything – and he puts his heart, soul and love of the club first to ensure the players are
mentally ready to produce on the pitch. His job is 24 hours a day be it giving lifts to players, helping them find schools and houses or even paying parking fines for them, and his input is just as important as ours on the field of play to make us successful.
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