Dean Cox wants to feel on top of the world– four years after he hit rock bottom when he left Albion.
The Sussex boy and former Seagulls wideman is heading to Wembley with Russell Slade’s Leyton Orient in tomorrow’s League One play-off final.
He does so with 16 goals to his name already his term and as second most prolific provider of assists in the third tier, behind only Bakary Sako of champions Wolves, with 13.
The 26-year-old from Haywards Heath would love to climb into the same division as Albion and meet them at the Amex next term.
But he admits the club he has always supported left him at his lowest ebb when boss Gus Poyet said he could go at the end of the 2009-10 term.
Cox told The Argus: “I was at rock bottom to be honest. It’s the football club I supported as a boy – and still do.
“It was disappointing and I felt I maybe could have been offered a bit more of a chance.
“But we went our separate ways and luckily enough for me Russell had been appointed manager at Leyton Orient.”
Cox sorted his move to the O’s in one afternoon and reckons it has been the making of him.
He said: “It has helped me grow up a bit.
“I’m still the same bloke. I’m one of those who voice their opinion.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m a winner. I want to win and maybe it was a bit of a personality clash with Gus.
“Before I was released by Brighton I wasn’t playing for about six months so the first thing was to get games.
“Since I’ve been here I’m coming up to 250 games which is great for me. I got my love for the game back.
“I’ve been quite consistent here, which is good.
“The four years that I’ve been here have given me a nice platform and obviously I never thought I’d be playing in a play-off final. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Cox did not celebrate when he scored for the O’s in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Withdean soon after his move.
He admits he has allowed the thought of taking on Albion again, in the Championship, to cross his mind as he heads towards the promotion decider against Rotherham.
“It would be lovely,” he said. “ All my mates will tell you that, when I’ve finished my game at Orient, I’m straight on the phone looking to see how Brighton have got on.
“I was very sad to see Oscar Garcia go.
“From interviews I’ve seen, he seemed a very genuine and very nice bloke.
“The injuries Brighton had this season have been ridiculous but I thought he did a fantastic job.
“The likes of Lewis Dunk and Jake Forster-Caskey, who I used to play with, have always been very good players but they have come on in leaps and bounds.
“If we can get there, it would be great to play at the Amex. It’s a fantastic arena.
“I’ve seen the training ground that is being put in place, which is fantastic as well.
“The club is going forward. Tony Bloom has done a fantastic job orchestrating all that for the football club.”
But so too has the man who has taken the O’s to Wembley.
Slade, too, would love to reach the same division as his former club.
Cox and Slade go way back. To when the latter referred to the winger as his “little bundle of anger management” after taking charge of Albion in 2009.
“The lads take the Mickey,” Cox joked. “They say he’s my second dad, he has been my manager that long!
“He’s a lovely bloke. He is a fantastic character. His man management is the best I’ve had.
“This season he has formed a great group. He has brought in Romain Vincelot from Brighton and he has been an absolute revelation for us. Russell gets on with every single player and treats everyone the same."