Dean Hammond has apologised for the goal celebration which has overshadowed his return to Albion – but insists he is a changed man.

Hammond left the Seagulls for Colchester in controversial circumstances at the end of the January 2008 transfer window.

He subsequently joined Southampton and angered Albion fans at Withdean by running along the touchline cupping his hand to his ear after scoring for Saints in a 2-2 draw on April Fool’s Day 2010.

Hammond, re-signed on a year’s loan, told The Argus: “It was 100% heat of the moment. Obviously, looking back on it I wish I hadn’t done it. I never meant to offend anyone.

“Things went on at the club that people don’t know about and I left on a difficult note really. We had just won at Wembley a few days before and I was on a bit of a high as well.

“I regret it now. I didn’t mean to do it and I could never envisage myself doing anything like that again.”

Some fans have reacted negatively to Hammond’s return on internet message boards and vowed to give him a hard time.

“I kind of expect it, because what I did was wrong,” he said. “It’s up to me to prove them wrong. I’ve got to work hard to get into the team but when I do and start playing it’s up to me to prove them wrong and hopefully they will back me.

“But I have no problem with them being like that. That’s their opinion and they are allowed to feel like that and I understand if they feel like that.”

Hammond could make his second debut for Albion in place of the injured Andrew Crofts against Sheffield Wednesday at The Amex on Friday week.

The former captain from Hastings was 24, single and childless when he left the club but is now a 29-year-old married father-of-two.

He said: “My life has changed massively. I’m married now and have got two children. That changes you. I have grown up a lot. I feel as though I am a different player and a different player to what I was when I left.

“I’m just really happy to be back. I always wanted to come back, especially the way the club is now.”