I’M NOT T HE OLD BOBBY – ZAMORA

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

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.

Changed

“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.”

Lucky

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.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

FRESH FACE: Bobby Zamora cel­e­brates scor­ing for Brighton in his first spell with the club in 2003 and, inset, play­ing for Eng­land against Hungary

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