Joining the Seagulls as a schoolboy, Dean’s time at Brighton saw the club progress from the fourth tier to the Premier League and from the old Goldstone Ground to the AMEX Stadium, via the Withdean Stadium.
He was in the Southampton and Leicester City sides that were promoted to the Premier League in 2012 and 2014, respectively. He helped establish Leicester in the top flight in 2014/15 before moving to Sheffield United on loan in October 2015. In 2017, he returned to Leicester for a coaching role with the Under-23s before becoming Academy Loans Manager.
Casting his mind back, Hastings-born Dean began: “I signed for Brighton when I was 11 years-old (in 1994) for the School of Excellence in the days before the modern Academy. When I was 16 I signed the YTS (Youth Training Scheme) form to become a full time footballer.”
It was a difficult time for the Seagulls. In April 1997, the club avoided relegation out of the Football League on goal difference and then became homeless as their Goldstone Ground was sold.
Dean reflected: “Since then, the club has been on a fantastic journey. Brighton have always been a big, well supported club, but obviously had financial struggles. I remember as a youngster watching Brighton at the Goldstone in League 2 and when the ground was sold, the Club had to play at Gillingham for a couple of seasons. I remember watching them there as a 15 year-old, when Micky Adams was the manager.”
Hammond started his career with Brighton, coming through the youth system at the south coast club.
In 1999, the Seagulls returned to Brighton to play their home games at the Withdean Stadium.
“Withdean, an athletics stadium, was a kind of portable stadium,” Dean recalled. “It was taken down every summer. I think the seats were used for the Golf Open. It was strange going back there for pre-season and the stadium wasn’t there. We changed in portakabins and it was a long walk across the track to the pitch. The players’ lounge was in a nearby pub.
"It actually worked in the club’s favour because the opposition didn’t really want to play there. We were grateful to have our own stadium again. The supporters felt that too as they could support their club back in their own city. We had a few promotions at the Withdean, but after four or five years we needed a change and the stadium needed freshening up.
“Micky Adams, who had given me my debut as a 17 year-old, got us promoted to League 1 (in 2001) and when he left to go to Leicester, Peter Taylor came in from Leicester and got us promoted again the following year, when I got my professional contract.
"When Peter Taylor left (in 2002), the next managers were Martin Hinshlewood, Steve Coppell and Mark McGhee. During those years, we got relegated from the Championship (2003), then promoted (2004) and then relegated again (2006). By experiencing promotion and relegation, I learnt the realities of football.
The midfielder made the move to Colchester United in 2008.
“Mark McGhee became manager (in October 2003) and got us promoted to the Championship by the play-offs on a limited budget. Against the odds we stayed up and he was the first manager who played me consistently in the first team.”
In 2006/07, with Brighton back in League 1, Dean became captain, was top scorer and voted Player of the Year.
“I was very proud to be captain of my local team," he continued. "I was about 21 or 22 years of age. Dean Wilkins, who had been my youth team manager and then assistant manager, was promoted to manager after Mark McGhee left (in 2006). We had a very young side. Dean wanted a lot of home grown players in the first team. Fortunately I was voted Player of the Year and was top scorer with eleven goals.”
In January 2008, after playing over 150 games for the Seagulls, Dean moved to the Championship side Colchester United.
“I loved my time at Brighton and later in my career I went back there,” Dean explained. “But I decided to go to Colchester. They were in the Championship so it was a level up for me. They were building a new stadium and had some good players. Teddy Sheringham was there. It was a difficult decision to leave my home town club, but it worked for us both in the end because with the money Brighton got for me, they signed Glenn Murray, who became a legend at Brighton.”
Hammond enjoyed two promotions during his time at Southampton.
In 2008/09, with Colchester back in League 1, Dean was made captain and voted Player of the Year.
“It’s always great to be voted Player of the Year,” Dean continued. “I loved it at Colchester. The manager Paul Lambert brought out different attributes in my game and helped me to grow into a more experienced and dedicated player. We were building a really good team until the point that Paul Lambert left to go to Norwich.“
In August 2009, Dean joined Southampton and was appointed as captain.
“My time at Southampton was very special,” Dean remembered. “Alan Pardew signed me. There were new owners and new investment. In my first season, we won the Johnstone Paint Trophy, in my second season we got promoted to the Championship, along with Brighton and then in my third season we were promoted to the Premier League. It’s always fun when you’re winning games, great times.”
Dean rejoined Brighton on a season-long loan in 2012.
Hastings-born Hammond returned to the Seagulls for a second spell at the club in 2013.
“My time at Southampton was unfortunately up, as happens in football,” Dean reflected. “Gus Poyet was Brighton’s manager and that was a big draw. Playing at the AMEX Stadium in a Brighton shirt was also a big attraction. The club was ambitious, trying to get into the Premier League. We got to the play-offs but we lost to Crystal Palace. It was still an enjoyable season, though. We should have gone up automatically, but we drew too many games and just missed automatic promotion.”
Twelve months later, Dean did get promoted to the Premier League with Leicester City.
Explaining the move to King Power Stadium in August 2013, Dean said: “I’d always thought I’d like to play for Leicester. I knew the quality of players at the club, the quality of the manager and the ambition of the owners. I spoke to Nigel [Pearson] and, as with my previous moves, I didn’t have to think about it too much because I was going to a really good club which was trying to progress.
"It was amazing to sign for Leicester and what a season we had in the Championship! The group within the dressing room was so talented. It was full of young, hungry players who wanted to prove a point, and then there were a few of us older, experienced players, so the mix and the blend was good.
“The team spirit was brilliant, one of the best I’ve experienced in my career, it was a close-knit group. There was lots of fun but we were very dedicated as well. Everyone loved going to the training ground. It was just brilliant.
Hammond featured in the Foxes' memorable 5-3 victory over Manchester United at King Power Stadium in 2014.
“I was aware from the start that there was definitely a Club culture and this was led by Nigel and his coaching staff. Nigel was a fantastic manager, the best I’ve worked under. As a man-manager, he was fantastic. There were lots of people at the Club who had the same values and that rubbed off on the players. This culture came from the very top. The owners are fantastic, they really are.
“Players like Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Kasper Schmeichel are Club legends who not only won the Championship, but also the Premier League and reached the Champions League Quarter-Final. They deserved it because they’re good players and good people.
“Having started with Brighton in League 2, to finally achieve my career goal of playing in the Premier League was fantastic. We started the season very well. We drew with Everton and Arsenal and beat Stoke. The Manchester United game will go down in history. We were 2-0 down, then 3-1 and then we won 5-3! I can still picture myself on the pitch, I can still hear the noise when Cambiasso equalised. It was the loudest I’ve ever heard.
“I really enjoyed that 'great escape' season, despite the run of bad results. We never lost by more than two goals, the games were very close and we’d proved at the beginning of the season that we could win games in the division.
“The biggest thing was that Nigel remained very consistent with his message, which was work hard, keep the routine, keep doing things over and over again and things would change. And they did.
Hammond played 12 Premier League games for Leicester during the Club's first season back in the Premier League in 2014/15.
“Despite the very poor run, the belief remained within the squad. Then Nigel changed the shape - we went with three at the back. To get two players up front really helped, as did the form of Jamie Vardy, our hunger to survive the drop and the team spirit. When we started scoring again and winning games, something switched. Confidence in football is like magic. We had pace and teams couldn’t live with us.
“Unfortunately I tore my calf four times that season, I just couldn’t get it right. Luckily enough, I came back to play a part in those last nine games, coming on now and again from the bench. To be around it was fantastic.
“The players carried on the form into the next season. If you continue with the momentum of winning throughout the season, you win the title and that’s what the players did. The group was maturing together. Then the quality of [N'golo] Kanté was added, which made a huge difference. Riyad Mahrez that year was unbelievable, as was Jamie Vardy.
"It gets forgotten how good the back four was, with Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs. Marc Albrighton also gets forgotten. Every player in that team was brilliant. Also the support network behind the players was there.”
In October of the title winning season, Dean went on a season-long loan to Sheffield United.
The midfielder amassed over 400 appearances across his professional career, including 45 for Leicester.
“That was a tough time," he admitted. "I’d had a long period of success in my career, but it didn’t work out at Sheffield. I learnt a lot about myself in that period. I’d love to have been part of the title-winning side at Leicester, but it wasn’t to be. You have to take the ups with the downs.”
Dean left Bramall Lane at the end of the season, but returned to Leicester in the spring of 2017.
“Steve Beaglehole asked me to speak to the Under-23s, who were struggling with injuries and inexperience. Then he asked me train again and then he asked me to play as an over-age player of 34 for the Under-23s to help them. It was a great four or five months, working with Hamza Choudhury, Harvey Barnes, Kieran Dewsbury-Hall, Elliott Moore and loads of others.
“That led to me becoming Academy Loan Manager, which was a really rewarding role. It’s a big role within football clubs now and I think it will become bigger. If you’ve got good Academy players coming through and you can get them the right loan move to the right club, they can really thrive, come back to the parent club and get in the first team, like Harvey Barnes did, coming back from West Brom.
"I loved that role and wouldn’t have left it, but my wife had a back operation and I had to become a full-time dad for four or five months. I’m now doing some media work with Leicester and Southampton. I love be watching, analysing and talking about games, it’s in my blood. I'm grateful to have had so many great experiences in my career.”
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