Brighton thrive on serving of home-grown Mayo

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The Independent Football

Brighton's manager Micky Adams is about to discover whether last season's unlikely Third Division champions can successfully compete in the Second. With his experience of working with clubs of limited resources he believes they can, but having been able to spend a mere £25,000 this summer – compared with, say, Cardiff's £2m – he is grateful that last season's prolific scorer, Bobby Zamora, has not been enticed away.

Adams puts a high value on loyalty, a quality he believes can never be described in fiscal terms, let alone compared with the £1m that Ryan Giggs picked up as a result of his testimonial for Manchester United against Celtic last week.

"It doesn't worry me how much he got," Adams said. "Whether it's Ryan Giggs or our Kerry Mayo, a testimonial is a reward for loyalty and that sort of loyalty doesn't come along all that often. Any player who serves a club for 10 years deserves it. And at the end of the day the fans don't have to go and pay the money."

Even so, he is drawn to make a comparison with players in the lower divisions who may eventually receive only a few thousand pounds in their testimonial years and – by and large – remain under-rewarded throughout their careers.

Mayo is a perfect example. The faithful defender joined Brighton through the YTS scheme in 1994, played every game last season and is the longest serving member of staff. Just being part of last season's championship winning side was all the reward that Mayo wanted.

For him it was "like a dream", as it was for the supporters who had suffered with him four years earlier when the club was on the edge of dropping out of the League and had to get a point at Hereford. Mayo scored an own goal that day but somehow Brighton chiselled out the necessary draw and since then have steadily regenerated, culminating in this centenary year.

The club, which at one time had to ground-share with Gillingham, is still in temporary accommodation at Withdean but a planning application for a new "Community Stadium" in the Falmer area is about to be re-submitted.

Adams says that for a club like Brighton that has overcome so many problems it is "even more important" to have at least one local-born player in the side.

"It sends the right message to the young players who are coming through the ranks," he said. "They must be given every chance of playing for their local club, but if you look through the whole of the league there are not many players who stay with the same club for a long time. Kerry enjoys a happy environment and being close to his family, but at the end of the day you don't keep your place because you're local. He's a decent player.

"We've had an enormous change in personnel since I've been here and times have changed since the Bosman ruling. Players have become much more mercenary. When you look at the wages some of the most loyal players in the lower divisions receive, they are often a long way behind the players who are brought in. With a player like Kerry, I have to make sure that he is properly rewarded for the work he does for me."

The work that Zamora did last season as an outstanding striker convinced Adams that his own biggest task of the summer would be to fend off offers from bigger clubs. Ipswich showed interest and several other Premiership clubs had him watched but, surprisingly, the only positive bid came from fellow promoted club Cardiff City.

"In a way it didn't surprise me," Adams said. "I think a lot of the big clubs wanted to wait and see whether he could do the same against better defences in the Second. That's the question I'll be asking him as well. If he starts rattling them in we expect that there's going to be a lot of interest." He dismissed suggestions that he recently threatened to resign if Zamora was sold. "I said it as a joke at a supporters' meeting, but someone wanted to make it sound serious."

Preparations for this season, in which the squad will be strengthened by the acquisition of Simon Morgan, Adams' former captain at Fulham, have pleased the manager. Except that is for last week's trip to Ireland where in their final game there was a mass brawl. An FA inquiry is likely but that will not take the shine off what he calls "the feel-good factor in the town". However, as Adams added: "Last season is for the historians. History isn't going to win us matches in this one".

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