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Nathaniel John, West Ham Correspondent
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Hammers midfielder relishing his first pre-season in two years
Last year’s pre-season training for Gary O’Neil consisted of months on the sidelines, helplessly watching his colleagues gear up for a season of Championship football.
Fast forward 12 months and things couldn’t be different for the Hammers midfielder, as he prepares for his first full season in claret and blue.
O’Neil joined the Hammers midway through the 2010-11 season before suffering a career-threatening injury to his ankle, which kept him out of the game for nine months until early 2012.
However, the midfielder returned to become an integral part of the side that won promotion back to the Premier League, and the 29-year-old is enjoying being fully involved in pre-season training.
“It’s good and important and I am pleased to be back involved,” he said.
“I am pleased to get everything in and I haven’t missed anything at all which is good.
“We came back earlier than anyone else so it has been a slow, gradual build-up, there hasn’t been the initial hit that you sometimes get when you have only got four or five weeks to prepare for the season.
“We have used the games to improve our fitness. We have still got a little while to go, but I think we are getting there.”
Due to the nature of O’Neil’s injury, the midfielder is regularly assessed by the West Ham medical team and is on a personal fitness programme to help and manage his right ankle.
“Sometimes with injuries like this you have to rest it every now and again just to give it a bit of a breather, but touch wood it has been fantastic,” he said.
“I’m pleased with the injury and I’m looking forward to the season.
“The ankle is not the same as it was before of course, but you have to adjust to things, it is easily manageable and I can play 90 minutes which is all that matters.”
The Hammers flew out to Germany for another pre-season camp on Monday, and face a hectic schedule of three games in the space of five days, starting tonight (Wednesday) against Rot-Weiss Erfurt.
“I think three games in five days is going to be tough so it is going to be interesting to see how much we can get into the week,” said O’Neil.
“I think we have got quite a few lads going, so I doubt if anyone will play 90 in all three.
“But it is going to be a good test, we will do some fitness work in between and I think that is the real difference in pre-season whereas in the league, in the build-up to games, you ease down and have a rest.”
And O’Neil believes the Hammers are shaping up nicely ahead of the new season.
“I think quality wise the squad is looking food,” he added. “I think numbers wise we are a bit short, but I am sure the gaffer and the board are working hard to address that.
“Is is not as easy to get players in as it used to be, and there are a lot of good clubs competing for players, but there is still plenty of time to go.”