When Glenn Murray left Brighton last week, Adam Lallana became not just the newest player at the club but also the oldest, and something about that feels strange.
He is only 32, for a start, and looks younger. Also, it does not seem long since he was weaving his way through the Southampton midfield, among the first of a breed of young midfield players to benefit from the teachings of Mauricio Pochettino.
Yet here he is now, back on the south coast as a senior pro following his free transfer from Liverpool. Ready to talk to younger players, ready to forge a bond with his manager Graham Potter similar to those he had with Pochettino, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp. More importantly, Lallana is ready to play.
Adam Lallana is relishing his new challenge at Brighton following his departure from Liverpool
Lallana is the oldest player in the Brighton squad and is ready to pass on his knowledge
He craves time on the pitch and the adrenaline rush of a match-day afternoon. There has not been enough of that in recent times.
‘It just feels great to know that I am going to be playing,’ Lallana tells Sportsmail. ‘And I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I don’t mean playing every game. That has to be earned.
‘It just feels nice that I am going to get game-time. Because of the level Liverpool were at in my last couple of years — coinciding with my injuries — it was so difficult to get back there.
‘Now there is a game for me on a Saturday. I have felt it already in pre-season. You work hard in the week and then you get your reward at the weekend. I am so excited for that, just being involved in the rough and tumble of it again.’
Despite his misfortune with injuries Lallana says he's as sharp mentally as he has ever been
The 32-year-old says that he is enjoying the prospect of getting regular game time again
Lallana laughs when we touch on his new role as elder statesman. ‘I am not that old yet, bloody hell...’ he says. Equally, he remembers the guidance he was given by senior pros at Southampton and is ready to do the same.
Brighton were progressive in terms of style under Potter last season but still came too close to the bottom three for any kind of comfort towards the end of the campaign. Clearly, any further progress up the Premier League this season will be hard-earned.
‘When I was young I used to like the older players having a bit of time for me,’ he says. ‘Whether it was a 10-second b*****king or a bit of praise.
‘There is great young talent here at Brighton and I would just tell them to give themselves the best chance. I would urge them to listen to people. I can tell Brighton want to make strides forward.
‘It will be important to get to 40 points. Anything more won’t happen overnight. It’s about working hard to improve and become better people with better attitudes and morals, and then we can move our performance to the next level. That’s what drew me here.
Lallana has described his ulcerative colitis as 'a continual battle' but says he is now on top of it
‘My previous relationships weren’t built overnight. Trust comes from working hard together in difficult situations. That counts for a lot, in football and in life. It’s a good purpose to have when you wake up every morning. There is no reason why we can’t aim to finish in the top half. That would be something to be proud of.’
The last few years of Lallana’s career have not been easy. He has started only nine league games in his last three seasons and visited some pretty dark places as he struggled with muscle injuries in particular. But Lallana feels his struggles have given him a healthier understanding of football and of life.
‘Mentally I am as good as I have ever been,’ he says. ‘The older you get the more perspective you have. Football isn’t everything. When you do suffer a lot of injuries, you slowly learn that it is preparing you for life after football.
‘It’s going to happen one day so you had better get used to it. It’s been difficult at times but I have tried to build up some positives.
‘Listening to Brighton’s advice is also important now. They are the experts. It is refreshing being at a different club where people do things differently. Some of the gym work is different, for example. I like that. It’s going great.’sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
Lallana has enjoyed stellar years in the game.