Writer: Richard McCormick
Date:Thursday August 14 2008
Go back twelve months and things were looking very different for Bolton midfielder Joey O`Brien. Then, he was preparing to return to the game after a season long lay-off with a knee injury. Yesterday, the 22 year-old was included in the Republic of Ireland squad for the upcoming friendly against Norway.
O`Brien is a product of Bolton`s youth academy and his development included a loan stint at Sheffield Wednesday, where he was highly regarded. On returning to the Reebok he was included in the team as a stand-in right back when Nicky Hunt was injured and performed the role so well that many considered him to be first-choice for the position. It also led to the first of three caps for his country.
Then came the injury that was originally diagnosed as tendonitis and which was to keep him out for all of last season. O`Brien struggled on his return, as players who have suffered long term injury often do, but by the end of the campaign, he was one of the better performers, in his preferred midfield holding role.
This time round things look promising for the young Irishman. He is well thought of by Gary Megson and has the ability and mentality to cement a place in midfield. Judging by his pre-season performances he has added mobility to his game and got on the score sheet with a spectacular strike at Doncaster.
The holding role has been a vital component of Bolton`s play over the past few years. It has been filled with distinction, most notably by Ivan Campo. That`s a hard act to follow and Joey O`Brien is a completely different sort of player, but he has the potential to do the job just as well.
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Date:Thursday August 14 2008
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