The first match of the year should have been special for Jason Dodd.

Instead the former Southampton stalwart is wondering when he will play for Albion again.

A mystery back injury has ruined Dodd's hopes of an emotional return to St Mary's.

The 35-year-old defender served Saints for 17 seasons before joining Albion on a free transfer in the summer.

Dodd performed solidly at rightback in the Seagulls' opening five Championship fixtures before ankle surgery ruled him out for two months.

His comeback was halted in the early stages of the draw at Cardiff in late November by the back injury which is now driving him mad.

"It's frustrating for me, no matter what game it is," Dodd said.

"It has been five weeks now and it seems I take one step forward and three back.

"They cannot really pinpoint what the problem is and it isn't just not being able to train.

"I am in constant pain 24-seven so, from my point of view, it's not just at work it's when I go home. I can't pick the kids up or go for a walk with the dog.

"It would have been great to play today but the issue for me at the moment is coming back playing full stop. I'm not bothered who it is against, I just want to get back."

Dodd has used his experience to help rally the troops in the fight for Championship survival during his spells on the sidelines.

He was an agitated spectator for the festive defeats at home to fellow strugglers Millwall on Saturday and at Luton last week which ruined the ground Albion gained in the Boxing Day victory against QPR at Withdean.

"For 45 minutes against Millwall we controlled the game and then for some reason we came back out and maybe started a bit sloppily," Dodd said.

"They were playing poorly and could only get better, we were playing quite well.

"As soon as our standard dropped it's really difficult to step it up again.

"We are great going forward but we have got to understand sometimes you just have to close up the game."

Depleted Albion could have done with Dodd's nous today but he still believes his team-mates can spring a surprise.

"We've got a few out which leaves spots for other people to come in and stake a claim," he said.

"Southampton have got a lot of injuries as well, so that gives us a great chance.

"It will be a great atmosphere. They'll have 26 or 27,000 people there and I just hope that we are ready for it."

Seb Carole is ready for retribution after Southampton spurned the opportunity to beat the Seagulls to the influential French winger's signature.

Carole had a two-week trial at St Mary's in the summer when Harry Redknapp was still in charge but it came to nothing and he joined Albion on a free transfer from Monaco.

"I am here now and enjoying myself but I have a bit of revenge in mind today," he admitted.

"I think it will be very difficult without our suspended players (Paul Reid, Dean Hammond and Colin Kazim-Richards) because they are very important for us.

"It was a very good first half against Millwall and we didn't think we could lose at that stage.

"But we lost our concentration at the start of the second half.

"It's a real shame because if we had won we could have looked up.

"Now we have to be careful because we have only 25 points and Millwall have 22, so we need points against Southampton."