West Ham star: ‘Play-offs are wrong, but we can still win it’
West Ham midfielder Gary O’Neil thinks a whole season decided on 90 minutes is unfair, but he is happy to be taking his place in the team
West Ham midfielder Gary O’Neil is not a big fan of the play-offs, especially when his team have just finished in third place.
But when the team go to Wembley next week, he is just glad and a little amazed to be playing a part.
“I think the fact that the season comes down to just 90 minutes is a little bit wrong,” said the 28-year-old who will be going to Wembley for the first time in his career.
“It is great for the media and to generate money, but the fact that you can be promoted or not on just 90 minutes is a little bit wrong.
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“You can get a stroke of bad luck on a deflection or a refereeing decision which shapes your whole season.
“But it is what it is and it is something you have to deal with if you don’t finish in the top two.”
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O’Neil has been an integral part of the West Ham midfield in the last couple of months, providing the spark and pace in the middle of the part that Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan lack.
It has been the secret of recent success, but for O’Neil, who missed eight months of the season with a crippling ankle injury that almost ended his career, he is just loving being a part of things.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to play again at the end of last season, so it’s a big turnaround and I can’t believe how many games I have played this season – I have been really lucky,” said O’Neil.
“I struggled a little bit between Thursday and the second leg, I didn’t do any training at all in between.
“I think the ankle is nowhere near as good as it was, but I don’t think it affects me that much.
“The longer I stay fit the better it will get. It is still going to need managing because it was such a bad injury, but I am just so pleased to be out there playing.”
You would never know that O’Neil was in pain. His form has been superb and twice he came close to scoring against Cardiff on Monday, hitting the bar with one volley.
“I think I have done okay,” said the modest former Middlesbrough and Portsmouth player.
“I have come into a good side. The lads have been fantastic all season, so it has made it easier for me.”
So victory next week and surely O’Neil will be partying with the rest of the team? Not a bit of it.
“I’m sure a few of the single lads will be going away on a few crazy trips,” he said.
“I will be sat on the beach somewhere with my ankle up, trying to get my daughter to leave me alone for five seconds!”
Sounds idyllic and hopefully he will have a play-off winners’ medal to show his little girl.