West Ham midfielder back where he belongs after 18 months

17:05 21 November 2012

West Ham United

West Ham United's Gary O'Neil (front) in action

EMPICS Sport

Hammers Gary O’Neil celebrated his first Premier League start of the season on Monday by providing the cross for West Ham’s equalising goal against Stoke City

Hammers midfielder Gary O’Neil celebrated his first start in the Premier League in 18 months by setting up the equalising goal in the Monday night 1-1 draw with Stoke City at Upton Park, writes Dave Evans.

The 29-year-old suffered a career-threatening ankle injury in April 2011 and with nine months on the treatment table, followed by helping the Hammers to promotion from the Championship, he is finally back to where he was.

“It has taken me 18 months to get back to starting a Premier League game since my injury,” said the midfielder. “That was my first start on Monday, but you do need games.

“I found it a little bit tough with the 90 minutes, compared to coming on for half an hour when the adrenaline helps you through it.

“It has been a long time since I played 90 minutes too – it was probably the play-off semi-final, so a long time.”

O’Neil has had to wait for that chance, but he is philosophical about the limited opportunities he has had this season and would not think of pestering the manager about a regular starting spot.

“You have to be patient, especially nowadays because there are a lot of good players around, a lot of big squads,” explained the former Portsmouth and Middlesbrough man.

“It is not like it used to be when everyone starts and you have only got 13 players – it is not easy to get a start.

“But I haven’t caused a fuss, I just get on with it, with the gaffer and I get on well with all the staff here.

“I am really enjoying it and I was just pleased to get a start, albeit because there were a lot of injuries. I wouldn’t say I was an out-and-out right winger, but I played there against Stoke City.”

He did and he proved himself a useful one just after half time when his low cross was turned in by Joey O’Brien.

It was a tactic that manager Sam Allardyce had suggested.

“The gaffer said if we do get a chance to cross it, try and slide it in behind them rather than hanging it up,” said O’Neil.

“We hadn’t got down there too often, so first chance I had I managed to get in underneath and surprisingly saw Joey O’Brien on the end of it – I was really pleased for him.

“In the end it is a decent point when you go 1-0 down to them, especially when they make it as difficult as they do and it keeps our little unbeaten run going.”

Latest Stories from SNAP.PA

As a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing trying your best to scrape through to next week, that is NOT what you want to hear.

Read more

Provided of course, you exercise some careful creativity.

Read more

Promotions

AGA Living Subscription

Every issue of AGA Living magazine is packed full of celebrity AGA owner interviews, interior and design features, ideas to inspire your culinary imagination, mouth-watering recipes and inspirational shopping ideas.

Dojo gives you hand picked recommendations for events, places and activities in London

Tired of always hearing about some amazing event in London after its gone, missing out on the best activities? That’s where Dojo comes in.

TOP STORIES

Quizzes

Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho go head to head (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Football managers are either deified or chastised, depending on results and they are some of the most famous faces in the country.

Read more
Roy Keane  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Roy Keane denied the world of more glorious beard action this weekend by shaving his famous chin hair off, however football is still littered with some impressive beards.

Read more
Do you fancy yourself as a football ground know-it-all? Try our devilishly difficult quiz!

How well do you know your football stadiums? This brand new quiz from London24 will seperate the men from the boys...

Read more
West Ham legend Paolo Di Canio features in London24's Hammers history quiz. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Test your knowledge of West Ham’s history with this fun quiz from London24.

Read more

West Ham Transfer News

Jermain Defoe (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Toronto striker Jermain Defoe has refused to rule out the chance of him making a Premier League return in January.

Read more
Winston Reid, West Ham United

West Ham co-owner David Gold is expecting key man Winston Reid to sign a new contract at Upton Park shortly.

Read more
Marcelo Brozovic in action for Dinamo Zagreb (Photo by Damir Sencar/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

Check out our Sunday round-up of the latest London transfer news and gossip from around the web.

Read more
Ron Vlaar. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Catch up with the latest London transfer news and gossip from around the web.

Read more