West Ham star has his Irish eyes smiling once again

Hammers defender Joey O’Brien may have missed the play-off final, but he is just delighted to be back in the Premier League

West Ham defender Joey O’Brien can’t believe his luck. You would think that would be bad luck when you consider that the Irish international missed out on the play-off final through injury, but not a bit of it, he has been to the ‘dark places’ and come out the other side.

“Of course it was hard, but that is football I suppose,” reflected the 26-year-old full back. “Throughout your career there are injuries and you are missing games, so it was disappointing.

“But if I had been offered the choice of playing in the two semi-finals and the final, but West Ham are not going to make it up, or, you are going to be injured, but West Ham will win it, I would have chopped your hand off on being injured.”

It is a typical attitude from a player who was probably the most consistent member of the West Ham promotion-winning squad.

O’Brien is just happy that he can pull his boots on once again and get out on the field – there was a time when he thought he would never have been able to do that again.

“I have missed two and a half years with this knee injury, but I am back now and that is all that matters to me,” said O’Brien. “I don’t think there is anything they can come up with that will make me stop playing now.

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“I have had everything since being told that I will never play again, to sorting out my insurance. I have gone to dark places that’s for sure. If I have to go there again, then I’ve been there before – so please God, I won’t have to.”

After seven years with Bolton Wanderers, the harsh reality of life outside football reared its ugly head when he was let go, but O’Brien is eternally grateful to Sam Allardyce for giving him another chance.

“It was an amazing opportunity coming to a huge club like West Ham,” said O’Brien, who has just won a recall to the Irish national team. “I hadn’t played in such a long time and I wasn’t thinking about where I was going to go.

“But I got a chance to play for a club like West Ham in the Championship, I don’t think it could have gone much better for me, having been released by Bolton.”

Many were sceptical of O’Brien’s chances when he first arrived last summer. Primarily a midfielder, Allardyce moved him to right back and after a hard-working and successful season, he ended up making 33 appearances for the Hammers as they stormed towards promotion.

“I managed to play a number of games, we got promoted, I am playing with a great bunch of lads, it has been fantastic and hopefully that continues this year,” he said.

It is always a case of careful management with O’Brien’s knee, but he is hoping that he will have finally made the return to the promised land of the Premier League.

“I was released by a Premiership club, but I got the chance to go to a massive club,” he said.

“The dream was to get back playing Premiership football and through all my injury worries, that was what it was all about and so hopefully I will get that chance.”

So say all of us.

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