Hammond faces old team-mates

DEAN Hammond seemed to slip through the back door almost unnoticed, when leaving the club on the same day as former manager Paul Lambert said his goodbyes.

Carl Marston

By Carl Marston

DEAN Hammond seemed to slip through the back door almost unnoticed, when leaving the club on the same day as former manager Paul Lambert said his goodbyes.

While the spotlight was on Lambert's sudden decision to resign, and take up the managerial post at League One rivals Norwich City, Hammond was on his way to the south coast to sign for Southampton.

It meant that the U's lost their manager, assistant manager (Ian Culverhouse), football operations manager (Gary Karsa) and their skipper (Hammond) all within a few hours of each other.

Hammond's departure was a big disappointment for U's fans, especially as the 26-year-old former Brighton favourite had started the season in impressive fashion alongside summer signing David Fox in the heart of midfield.

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He had taken time to stamp his authority in a struggling team when he first arrived, on transfer deadline day on January 31, 2008, with Geraint Williams' men wallowing at the foot of the Championship table.

But although he could not halt the slide towards inevitable relegation, Hammond was one of the U's brightest sparks during their return to League One last term.

He found a new lease of life under new boss Lambert, and went on to be crowned player-of-the-year, scoring five goals and marshalling his troops in the middle of the park.

We will never know how he would have faired under new U's boss Aidy Boothroyd, because Hammond upped sticks and signed a three-year deal at Southampton, for an undisclosed fee (believed to be approaching �400,000) a fortnight before Boothroyd's appointment.

However, Hammond knows full well that his new team will face a severe test from his old team this afternoon.

“Colchester are a decent side. The lads are good players and the team spirit is good there,” admitted Hammond.

“They're also an aggressive side but like to play football, and they will come here to win.

“They are a good club with some very good players and a new manager, so I'm sure they'll do fine.

“Aidy Boothroyd's come in now and he'll make his own changes, play the way that he wants to play and, like I say, they'll be a good test for us,” added Hammond.

Hastings-born Hammond has always been at home on the south coast, and he has already settled in well at St Mary's Stadium, playing the full 90 minutes in his first two games against Brentford and at Stockport, which both ended in 1-1 draws.

He should start against the U's today - he made 54 league appearances for the Essex club - probably playing alongside Lloyd James in central midfield.

Saints boss Alan Pardew bolstered his squad earlier this week with the arrival of Senegalese striker Papa Waigo N'Diaye (on loan from Fiorentina for the season) and Tunisian defender Radhi Jaidi.

However, Jaidi is unlikely to play against Colchester, because he is as yet does not have a work permit.

Striker Marek Saganowski is away with the Polish national side - they play against Northern Ireland today - so that could pave the way for Waigo to start alongside ex-Bristol Rovers marksman Rickie Lambert in attack.

A familiar face in the Saints squad is defender Neal Trotman, who had a loan spell at Colchester from Preston last term. Centre-half Trotman is on loan at St Mary's until January 3.

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