Connor Goldson hailed his special group of team-mates after making his return to action in Albion's opening pre-season friendly on Friday.
The 24-year-old defender missed the last four months of Brighton's promotion-winning season when he had to have preventative surgery on a heart issue.
After a successful recovery, Goldson played the second half of the 2-0 win against Fortuna Dusseldorf in Austria and was delighted to be back on the pitch.
He said: “I am very happy. It’s been a long time coming, after five or six months, but it’s all in the past now and we are moving forward. I am happy to play my first game of football and I really enjoyed it.
“When I first got the news I thought it would be a really tough time, but everyone made me feel such a part of the group still, while at every game I went to my song was sang by the fans.
“I did worry that I wouldn’t be so involved and it would be tough to take, but I was delighted to be a part of the promotion. It’s such a special club, a one city club, and you could see that with the celebrations and with the number of people who came out for the parade. It was a day any of the boys will ever forget.”
Goldson praised club doctor Stephen Lewis and his team-mate for their support and said: “The staff have been unbelievable. I’d like to thank the doctor, as he was there from day one with me. He saw all the tough times and all the good times with me coming back and I thanked him again after that game (Dusseldorf).
“Obviously my team-mates are a special group; we all back each other and they picked me up when I first got the news. I wanted to come back in every day and be around them every day because I knew they could make me smile.”
Goldson says he will now work hard to earn a spot in the team next season: “There’s competition everywhere in the team. We’ve got good quality and I’m sure there will be more to come in. We’ve got a good side and that’s what you need in every single position.
“All we can do, each and every single one of us, is work as hard as we can and I’ll do the same. All you can do is work your hardest, and then see what happens."
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