I’M NOT T HE OLD BOBBY – ZAMORA
BOBBY Zamora has warned Brighton fans that his freescoring days are over – but insists he still has plenty to give.
Zamora, 34, made his name on the south coast, netting 83 goals in 186 games as the Seagulls clinched successive promotions to the Championship.
He subsequently joined Spurs for £1.5m and has since forged a successful top-flight career with West Ham, Fulham and QPR.
Now, a decade on, the twice-capped striker has returned to the club closest to his heart amid a euphoric reception from fans.
But with 532 games in his legs and just 13 goals in four seasons at Loftus Road, Zamora hopes they aren’t banking on seeing the Zamora of old.
“It’s fantastic to be back but a lot has changed since then,” said Zamora, who won promotion from the Championship with West Ham in 2005 and QPR in 2014.
“The game’s changed. I’ve changed.My game is very different and goals aren’t as frequent as they once were. But my hold-up play, things like bringing others into play and assists – all those aspects have improved since I left Brighton so hopefully I can still be of use.
“And I don’t just mean on the pitch. Just this week I’ve been asked if I could do something with the Under-21s and the younger guys. When I signed it was always a case of wanting to help the team on a Saturday, the club during the week and the community the rest of the time.
“This city was a massive part of my career and everybody in Brighton & Hove has been tremendous to me – not just when I played there but ever since. I’m going to try and get involved in a few proj- ects that I hope will give something back.”
Like Zamora – a £100,000 signing from Bristol Rovers as a 19-year-old in 2000 – the club is very different these days.
“When I joined we were Third Division and didn’t have anything,” he says. “The Withdean wasn’t the best ground. The facilities were even worse.
“Now, the training ground is the best I’ve ever played at and the stadium is one of the biggest and best in the Championship. The owners have done an amazing job.”
But for all the mod-cons, Zamora freely admits he would swap it all to go back and play in that all-conquering side of the early noughties.
“It’s probably the best time I’ve ever had in my career,” he adds. “And not just because we were Third Division and scoring goals was easier!
“I’ve been lucky – I’ve played in some good teams and won a lot of honours. I’ve played for England. But on the whole – the banter on the training ground, the lads, the fans – I don’t think anything beats my time at Brighton.
“We had Charlie Oatway, Nathan Jones who is first-team coach here. Paul Watson is the physio. There were no egos. Just lots of banter and lots of abuse. I loved it and I think it’s fantastic that the club have looked after those guys so well.”
And Zamora admits that, this time next years, he may also have ridden off into the sunset.
“I’d love to do well this year and if that happens, maybe I’ll go another one,” he says. “But Brighton will be my last club, that’s for sure.”
FRESH FACE: Bobby Zamora celebrates scoring for Brighton in his first spell with the club in 2003 and, inset, playing for England against Hungary