Thursday 14 December 2017

Hammers hand Joey a chance

West Ham's Joey O'Brien. Photo: PA
West Ham's Joey O'Brien. Photo: PA

Joey O'Brien will get his first start for West Ham in over six months this evening when Slaven Bilic hands the Dubliner a chance to impress.

Presuming he is back from his weekend jaunt Stateside to attend the Superbowl, Martin O'Neill will be keeping an eye on the Hammers' FA Cup replay at home to Liverpool as it's a rare chance for Darren Randolph to get some game time.

United manager Slaven Bilic has promised to play Randolph in the FA Cup as long as the Hammers are in the competition, and the Bray lad had been good for West Ham so far with two clean sheets from two Cup appearances.

But it's also an opportunity for O'Brien to re-emerge from cold storage and showcase his talents. O'Brien, who turns 30 next week, made five appearances for the Hammers in their summer Europa League campaign but was then knocked back by injury and has since played just once, as a first half sub in the drawn Cup tie at Anfield.

James Tomkins is their regular full back but he has just been ruled out for a month so Bilic is pleased to have O'Brien on hand to take over, especially as recent signing Sam Byram is ineligible tonight as he's cup-tied.

"James has gone for a scan and, depending on the results, he might be out for two to four weeks. With Sam Byram Cup-tied, it means Joey will come in. We have no doubts about him, he is a quality player but he has been injured for much of this season," said Bilic.

"We are OK, Sam is OK for the Premier League and also Joey O'Brien is back after a long absence. Of course he is a good player, his quality was never in doubt. Losing Tomkins is a big blow for us but we have options. It's good we got Sam after what happened to Carl Jenkinson and with Joey we are well covered."

O'Brien, who joined the Hammers in 2011 after a long spell with Bolton, recently expressed his hopes of winning back his place in the Ireland set-up. He had the perfect beginning to his Ireland career, starting at right back in a 3-0 win over Sweden in Steve Staunton's first game, and after a long battle with career-threatening injuries he resurfaced in Giovanni Trapattoni's time, winning caps against Serbia and Oman in 2012.

He was on he bench for Martin O'Neill's first game in charge, against Latvia, but has not featured of late and faces a battle to win a place in the Euro 2016 squad.

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