Dean Hammond has revealed how his life is back on track after admitting that he drank too much when his career ended.
The former Albion midfielder gave a fascinating insight into the problems he faced when he packed up at the age of 33 in the latest MyAlbion podcast with Adam Tighe.
Hammond, who had two spells with Albion and made nearly 200 appearances for the club, retired after a season with Sheffield United four years ago.
He said, “I went to Sheffield United from Leicester when they were in League One and I thought it would work out like Southampton earlier in my career when we got promoted out of the same division under the same manager (Nigel Atkins) but I had a terrible season and so did the club.
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“I could have carried on but at 33 I wanted to spend more time with my family.
“When I was a pro I always had alcohol under control. I was a dedicated professional.
“I finished my career and lost my focus, I felt low – my bubble had burst. I was in the real world and I didn't know what to do with myself, I missed football so much. I felt the pressure of being a stay-at-home father and started drinking a lot more for the next 2-3 years.
“I wasn't an alcoholic but I saw a personality I didn't want to become. When lockdown happened earlier this year I reassessed and drinking was the first thing I stopped. Since then my life has got better, I've got a new career and I feel better about myself personally.”
Hammond now combines media and analysis work at a couple of his former clubs Southampton and Leicester with stints for talkSPORT. He has also set up an online fitness platform – Dean Hammond Elite Fitness - designed to help Dads to keep in shape.
“I put on 30-minute work-out four times a week and it's my biggest passion – my fitness platform and helping other Dads keep fit.”
In the podcast Hammond talks about his first spell at Albion when he made nearly 150 appearances before joining Colchester, a move which attracted a lot of criticism at the time from supporters.
“Being made captain by Dean Wilkins was the highlight of my career. It helped me so much and that season was the first when I felt like a professional footballer.
“Dean was a brilliant manager. We were playing in a more exciting way, more possession-based, like the team do now. If he'd had a bit more backing from the club for another year we would have got into the [Championship] play-offs.
“There was interest from other clubs, but I didn't ask to leave. All I asked was to be paid the same as other players in the squad. I was top scorer, playing every week and I was captain. The powers that be didn't see it that way, and the club decided to sell me.”
Hammond says returning on loan from Southampton and playing under Gus Poyet at the Amex was a dream fulfilled.
“It was always in my plan to go back and right the wrongs. I wanted to play at the Amex - I'd first seen a model of the stadium when I was 14 so to play there was brilliant.
“When that season ended with defeat in the [Championship] play-offs to Crystal Palace, it was a huge low. It is one of the biggest regrets in my career, especially after such a good performance in the first leg when we drew 0-0. We just didn’t turn up that evening, but it was still one of the best years of my career.”