We recently caught up with former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Tommy Elphick, who made more than 170 appearances for the Seagulls, to discuss his playing days at the club, before his 2012 move along the south coast to AFC Bournemouth.
Elphick enjoyed two promotions inside three seasons for the Cherries, as the Dorset club reached the Premier League, but the 31-year-old has since joined Aston Villa on a permanent deal, before loan spells at Reading and Hull City.
But it all started at the Withdean Stadium for Elphick, and the central defender reflected on his journey through the club’s youth ranks and into the first-team setup.
He said, “It was a really good journey and one that I wouldn’t change for the world. I was really fortunate in my age group, we had a really talented bunch.
“About 11 or 12 of us went on to get pro contracts, we had a great run in the FA Youth Cup, beating Chelsea at the Withdean before losing to Newcastle on penalties up there.
“Plenty of us had a chance of making it — I was never top of the group, but I gave myself the best chance with my attitude and application.
“I was a leader from a young age in terms of setting standards for our age group. I was the one that went on to maintain that and carry it through to my senior days.
“Obviously you always believe in yourself and when I got to my last year at school, things started clicking for me and I was always told there were high hopes. Hopefully I justified that by what I went on to do with the first team.”
After years of hard work, Elphick was given his league debut against Reading at the Madejski Stadium in 2005, but it turned out to be a memorable experience for a number of reasons.
“I made my debut quite early at Reading and it was a strange day, with my brother Gary also making his debut but getting sent off. I was the one that came on to replace him, so there were mixed emotions for the family.
“We were both still living at home, so it was an awkward one when we got back. It was a rollercoaster for the family, Gary had been knocking on the door for a while and was on the bench quite a bit.
“I was really happy for Gary to get his debut, but obviously it didn’t go the way he wanted it to. We both played in a reserve game on the Thursday night before the Saturday at Reading and it went to extra time.
“All of a sudden he was playing on Saturday against the best team in the division, who went on to score over 100 goals and get over 100 points, so he was kind of chucked in at the deep end.
“I was obviously gutted for Gary but inside I was delighted to have made my debut at such a young age.”