FC Halifax Town: O’Brien back at The Shay with a point to prove

FC Halifax Town v Harrogate Town. Keil O'Brien
FC Halifax Town v Harrogate Town. Keil O'Brien

Keil O’Brien has returned to Halifax with a point to prove and says it’s good to be back at The Shay.

The centre-back joined on a month’s loan from Southport last Friday eight months after his last appearance for the club during a previous loan spell and made his second debut in the 1-0 defeat to Harrogate on Monday.

O’Brien started four of Southport’s first five games this season but was pushed to the margins by the loan signing of defender Callum Howe from Lincoln.

“I thought I was going to play against Tranmere (last Saturday), but then I got a phone call on the Thursday night saying I was going to Halifax,” he said.

“There’s no point lying about it, I was surprised, but I just want to play football.

“I understand why the Southport manager’s done it. He’s brought someone in who probably has to play in his contract.

“To be honest, I was pleased because I felt like I had to come back to prove something.

“When I came here last time I wasn’t fully fit, I was coming off the back of a long-term injury, so I feel like I’ve got a point to prove.

“I’m very happy to be back. I wanted to get out and play games.

“That’s all I’m focused on this year, playing games, and hopefully I can help Halifax maintain a promotion push.”

O’Brien made eight appearances for Halifax first time around under Darren Kelly and Jim Harvey, but his spell was cut short due to a knee injury which has plagued him since joining Bury in 2014.

“I took a knock to my knee and when that happens, it takes two or three weeks to settle down,” he said.

“So I thought it was a bit unfair to stay and be unfit.

“When I left Halifax I went back to Bury but didn’t get game-time there so I asked to go out on loan again.

“I did that but it led to another problem with my knee, so I’ve been unlucky.

“It was just a case of resting up over the summer. I did no training and then when I got to pre-season I knuckled down.

“Hopefully that’s all in the past. I’m feeling good now.

“I tore my knee when I first signed for Bury and never really recovered.

“I was a bit unlucky with it but I’m fully fit now and there’s no problem with it, touch wood.

“I’ve not felt this fit for a very long time, so the aim is just to maintain that and try not to pick up any niggles.”

O’Brien is philosophical about his move to Bury, during which he made just one senior appearance for The Shakers.

“It was a massive move,” he reflected. “It was my dream from being a young lad to play professional football.

“Looking back on it, was it the right move? Probably not. It was probably too soon.

“I didn’t get enough games. I wanted to go there to learn and to be honest, I didn’t really feel like the manager gave me a chance.

“When he did give me a chance in the FA Cup I did well and got man-of-the-match.

“But then it just filtered out and I felt I was an easy target to use because of my inexperience.”

O’Brien was one of 35 players used by Halifax last season as they were relegated from the National League, and the 24-year-old admits he joined at a tumultuous time during the ill-fated reign of Darren Kelly.

“It was a mad time,” he said. “Halifax is a massive club and it should be in League Two.

“It didn’t happen last season and you can blame who you want, but at the end of the day, eleven players go out on the pitch and the manager trusts you to go out and do that.

“I think my first game was in the FA Cup against Guiseley and we drew 2-2.

“I couldn’t really see the problem, we were playing football, trying to do the right things.

“But when we got back to the league you could see there was a lack of confidence.

“The players we had - Nicky Wroe, Hamza Bencherif, Matty Brown - there were some big names in non-league.

“It was a shame how it ended but we’ve got to bounce back.”