Leon Best: Brighton will be happy they signed me

Leon Best

By Aidan Fitzmaurice

IRELAND striker Leon Best feels he can help his new club Brighton soar up the Championship table now that he's close to full fitness.

The 28-year-old has had a stop-start season, with two loan spells away from Blackburn Rovers, initially at Derby County and now at Brighton.

His time at Derby was frustrating as Best failed to score, or start a league game, in a five-month spell. He made his debut for Chris Hughton's Brighton two weeks ago - he was cup-tied for last week's defeat to Arsenal - and hopes to feature again tomorrow away to fellow strugglers Blackpool.

And Best, last capped against Brazil in 2010, says there is more to come from him during his time at Brighton, where he will see out the season on loan.

"I want to have a season where I'm scoring a lot of goals and throughout my career I've always had niggling injuries that have stopped me playing for the whole season. Now I'm in a position where I'm really looking after myself and injuries are not holding me back," says Best.

"The main aim for me is to get as fit as I can and contribute to the team getting higher up the table.

"Not a lot of people know, unless you play the game, how hard it is to come on and play at the level you want to when you're not fit and you haven't got the sharpness that you want," he added.

"I'm my biggest critic and I still want to be playing regularly at whatever level I can and scoring regularly as well. You're not going to be able to come off the bench for two or three minutes and score three goals."

Having made the breakthrough with Southampton, Best stepped up a level while at Coventry City, where he made his senior Ireland debut under Giovanni Trapattoni and earned a move to Newcastle in 2010.

But he struggled at St James' Park and move on again, to Blackburn, in a £3million deal in 2012.

But injury in his first pre-season at Ewood Park made things difficult and in the last two seasons he was out of favour, loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday last term ahead of this season's spells at Derby and now Brighton.

Seagulls boss Chris Hughton has worked with Best at Newcastle and is a big fan of the striker.