“He’s a good player and a good pro.
He added: “He can run all day long, he’s good on the ball, a good passer, he sees all the pictures in front of him and is a top professional.
“We’ve got plenty of options in that department now, but he’ll certainly add to what we’ve got – he’s a good, good player and will be a fine acquisition for us.”
They aren’t the words of City boss Neil Adams; though he was singing from the same hymn sheet late on Friday night after watching Gary O’Neil take centre stage in the 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers – a victory that steadied a few nerves after the recent wobbles of late.
They are, actually, the words of QPR boss Harry Redknapp, speaking last summer when he picked up the then 30-year-old off West Ham.
Redknapp knew exactly what O’Neil would bring to the party after watching him emerge from the Youth ranks at Fratton Park where he was for the better part of six years before the one-time England Under-21 star made a £5 million move to Middlesborough – to where he will return in mid-week.
The point of the story is two-fold.
Whatever anyone ever says about old ‘Arry, he knows a player like few others do.
If he goes back in for you, that tends to speak volumes. For both the player himself and, invariably, his character.
But equally Redknapp brought O’Neil in to do him a specific job at Loftus Road.
To help get him back into the top flight of English football at the first attempt. And that he did.
That is, equally, no mean feat. The Championship is littered with clubs who dropped out of the Premier League never to return; or at least not with the speed that their long-suffering supporters would have wished for.
Portsmouth would be a classic case in point.
Norwich’s ‘hang-over’ was long, painful and poisonous. Fingers of blame pointed in many a direction for many a season as the re-adjustment took the Canaries to Yeovil and back – threatening the good name of many a good man in the process.
To bounce back at the first go takes character. And Redknapp knows that. He knows ‘a good pro’.
I remember chatting at length to Ian Crook one time; who he would buy and why.
He would buy players with a ‘little bit of mongrel’ in them; and players who had grown accustomed to winning. That weren’t on the way down.
O’Neil would appear to fit both requirements to a ‘T’. He knows what it takes to get out of this division, even if his long-time managerial mentor didn’t quite fancy him for another tour of duty in the top flight. He swapped him for a Leroy Fer.
There is another interesting twist to the sudden appearance of O’Neil on centre stage and, indeed, that of Jonny Howson whose No 10 role on Friday night gave Cameron Jerome the kind of intelligent service he should thrive on.
And it is a case of Adams maybe getting ‘lucky’. In the sense of Wes Hoolahan getting injured.
It seems odd to describe it as a stroke of good fortune and, no doubt, our Wesley would not be impressed to think that an ankle ligament injury was in any way ‘lucky’.
But it nipped an increasingly poisonous and divisive debate in the bud.
Where best to play the Dubliner became an irrelevance; he wasn’t fit to play anywhere. End of argument.
And I think Adams might reap the benefit. In fact, I think he did on Friday night. His managerial rise is now back on track again without the distraction that was where to play our Wessi.
No doubt it will resurface as and when Hoolahan returns to full fitness, but then he might have to dislodge one or other of O’Neil or Howson out of a winning team. If the City chief has stumbled on the midfield formula that brings the best out of Mr Jerome.
It is funny how such slices of ‘luck’ can play their part in potentially determining the course of a season. And it is a risky business running to snap judgements on the back of one game and one result.
If I was to be a little controversial I might have been sorely tempted to cash in on Hoolahan’s clear footballing talents the week after the Villa Park affair and his lack of a goal celebration in front of his then potential employers.
It suggested that, at that point in time, his heart and interest was elsewhere.
Which is fine. Go then.
But, in fairness, everyone appears to have kissed and made up; the new manager has made his admiration plain and off we go again.
Wondering just where is the best place to play Wesley Hoolahan in the ugly, back alley brawls of the Championship…