Albion's departed captain Dean Hammond has hit back at chairman Dick Knight over the reasons behind his move to Championship strugglers Colchester.

Hammond believes the Seagulls should have opened negotiations over a new contract much earlier.

The saga over the influential midfielder's future finally came to a close yesterday when Hammond was sold to Colchester for £250,000.

He had refused to sign a new deal with Albion and they felt obliged to cash in before the January transfer window closed last night, since he was entitled to a free transfer at the end of the season.

In a statement released by the club, Knight said: "We did everything possible to persuade Dean to stay, including turning down a £200,000 bid from Colchester at the start of the window, and offering him an extremely generous new contract with a get-out clause if we didn't get promotion this season.

"I'm sad that Dean is leaving but I'm afraid that his Bosman-free status at the end of this season, and the opportunity that offers agents and players, has seriously influenced negotiations over these past few months."

Hammond views events rather differently. He wanted Albion to secure his future much sooner after passing an appearance-related clause which guaranteed him a new deal midway through last season.

He said: "I was owed a contract halfway through last season and no negotiations were taken up with me. I was told to wait until the end of the season.

"I was speaking to the gaffer (Dean Wilkins) regularly but maybe that didn't involve the chairman.

"If the chairman says negotiations were going on regularly then it may have been with the gaffer, because I spoke to him a lot, but maybe not the chairman."

With his own situation unresolved, Hammond was also frustrated by the way Albion's season began to unravel in December.

Bas Savage rejected a new deal and Hammond's midfield loan partner, George O'Callaghan, returned to Ipwich with a parting shot at Knight for dragging his heels in settling players' futures.

Hammond said: "In the summer and at the beginning of the season there was a buzz around the club with new players coming in, the gaffer having been in for a year and the younger players gaining experience.

"Just before Christmas we were in the play-offs, looking strong. Then things happened over Christmas which everyone knows about.

"Maybe if something had been done then we wouldn't be in the situation we are now."

Those accidental references to we', now that he is an ex-Seagull, are indicative of Hammond's feelings.

The 24-year-old from Hastings is hurt that his long association with Albion, right the way through the ranks, has been tainted by the acrimony surrounding his departure.

"It's been a difficult situation, put it that way," he said. "The chairman is going to say what he is going to say and do the best for his club but I am a Sussex boy and I've always wanted to do the best I can for the club.

"I think I always have, coming back from being given a three month contract to where I am now and being made captain. That is the greatest honour I've had in my career so far.

"I did not take leaving Brighton lightly. I've had a lot of sleepless nights.

"I don't think anyone can question my loyalty, because I have always done my best for Brighton.

"It's hurt me massively. Anyone who knows me knows I am honest, not just as a footballer but as a person.

"It has not ended how I wanted it to end. I wanted to play for Brighton in the Championship and build the club up with the new stadium but maybe that wasn't or isn't going to happen.

"It's probably the hardest decision I've had to make in my life. I've been here a long time, I know everyone at the club very well and they are a great bunch of lads but I have been given an opportunity which I probably couldn't turn down.

"I played in the Championship with Brighton before and loved it and very much wanted to play with Brighton again in the Championship but maybe that wasn't going to happen as soon as I would have liked.

"Colchester have given me that opportunity and I have taken it."

Do you think Albion did enough to try to hang on to Dean Hammond?