Albion new boy Nathan Elder has seen close at hand how there is no substitute for hard work.

Which is why the 21-year-old striker plucked from non-League is willing to get his head down and graft his way to a successful professional career.

Elder admits he was handed his best-ever Christmas present when he signed an 18-month contract with the Seagulls.

He comes with the reputation for hard running and plenty of goals, 47 of them in fact for his most recent club Billericay in the Ryman League premier division.

And he has seen at his hometown club how gradual improvement tends to be a better bet than a quick fix.

Elder might have made an impact at Hornchurch had the Essex club not got ideas above their station when they came into big money.

The cash soon ran out, but not before Elder had moved on elsewhere. Now he is the one laughing.

He said: "I was born in Hornchurch and I played there as a youngster, when I was about 16.

"I was there before all the money arrived. It was definitely interesting when that happened.

As soon as the money came in a lot of new guys came in as well. It was basically if you want a decent player, you go out and buy one.

"I went to Aveley and that was where Billericay spotted me. I did full-time training with Billericay right at the beginning when (former Spurs defender) Justin Edinburgh was manager. Then he left and they had no one to take it so we went part-time.

"I worked full-time in a warehouse for a while. It's slightly different to being on the pitch but it's still a physical type of job. But I'm that sort of person. I can't sit down all day. I need to be active."

Albion have taken their time and done their homework with Elder, who will be available to them from Monday.

They tracked him last season and revived their interest when he scored twice against Paul Rogers' Worthing recently.

That was followed by two goals in a minute in a win over Tonbridge Angels.

His arrival from Essex will draw comparisons with how Alex Revell signed from Braintree last summer and proved such a success.

A few eyebrows were raised when Revell said his aim was to start the first game of the campaign at Rotherham.

But he was out there for kick-off at Millmoor and hit the winning goal with a stunning curler from the left edge of the penalty area.

Dean Wilkins has asked fans to be patient with Elder as he makes a massive step up - but he would love the new boy to follow in Revell's footsteps.

The Albion boss said: "It's not too dis-similar a situation to Alex. I think their scoring records at that level are comparable.

"I think if you asked anybody Alex has played a big part, probably more so than anybody expected."

Elder had a quick chat with Revell as he left Withdean on Monday. The two have plenty in common.

But there is also one significant difference between them.

While Revell had played professionally at Cambridge United before his stint at Braintree, this is the first time Elder has ever been anywhere near League football.

In fact, he admits Billericay was a big step up when he went there.

Told about Revell's bold words of last July, he laughed: "I'm not THAT confident.

"As soon as I heard about the move the first thing I saw it as was a learning opportunity.

"As soon as I get to training I'm going to be battling as hard as I can. My ambition is to be starting in the team.

But first and foremost I am going to be trying to learn.

"I'm a very aggressive player. I like to get stuck in. I think I'll probably be quite strong in the air and that will be good for feeding people running through."

He might even link up with an old adversary.

"I think I played against Alex when he was at Braintree and I was at Billericay," he said.

"We got trounced at their place and put up a battle at ours but he was definitely a major part of their squad.

"I've played against Jermaine Beckford, who is now at Leeds, and I've played against DJ Campbell, who is now at Birmingham and against Alex.

"It seems the strikers around there must be doing something right."