Albion boss Gus Poyet has hailed returning centre-half Tommy Elphick as a model professional.

Elphick makes his first league start for 21 weeks in place of the suspended Adam El-Abd against Carlisle at Withdean today.

El-Abd and skipper Gordon Greer have established themselves as the first choice partnership at the heart of the back four but Poyet has nothing but praise for the way Elphick has handled being regularly overlooked and does not want to lose him.

The manager told The Argus: “He has been a true professional, impressive. Many other players in his situation would be moaning and complaining and trying to leave but he has been outstanding in those terms.

“He wasn’t happy but he was training, even more than the rest. He asked to train a few days when we were off, he asked to play in the reserves and we had to stop him because they were not the best games for him.

“I think it’s an example for the rest of the players and they are the players you want at the club. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have a player like that during a difficult time for him.”

Elphick was linked with other clubs during the January transfer window but talks with Poyet reassured him.

Poyet said: “We had rumours about Tommy and Dunky (Lewis Dunk), that someone would make an offer for Glenn (Murray) and they didn’t.

“We had rumours about Fran (Sandaza) on loan but the only one was Elliott (Bennett).

“Tommy knows me well and I was totally honest with him. Every time he has jumped in to play against better players and better teams in the FA Cup he has done very well, so I am looking for that kind of performance, just Tommy at his best, concentrating, defending well, passing the ball, making us play the way we have been playing.”