Gary O'Neil believes the combination of a quality squad and some fine form will see West Ham United through the tough challenges of the next few months of the Barclays Premier League.

Midfielder O'Neil says that while the side were disappointed to lose against Arsenal last weekend - only their second home league defeat in 2012 - a foundation is forming that the players and manager Sam Allardyce want to build on. After the next two tricky-looking fixtures against Southampton and Wigan Athletic are completed, the Hammers enter an unenviable run of games that include both Manchester teams, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, but O'Neil feels the squad should hold no fear.

"We have made a good start and want to get better as the season goes on," O'Neil said "We have had good results in first few weeks and started to build the foundations of what we want to achieve.

"In the last week, we had the great win away at Queens Park Rangers and then against Arsenal, we came out and made a great start to the game, but ultimately came away disappointed after losing to what is a very good Arsenal side. But we have to look to build on what we have done well so far in the next few weeks again."

While there may be some tough fixtures ahead, O'Neil is confident there is enough quality and spirit in the squad to ensure West Ham United continue to head in the right direction.

"There is a really good vibe around the place. The lads have done fantastically so far this season. We have had a decent start and coming up from the Championship is hard, so getting a good beginning to the campaign is important.

"Yes, we have tough games coming up but the form we have been in and the squad we have, we are all looking forward to the challenges ahead and believe we are capable of meeting them."

Spirit is in good supply at the Hammers' Chadwell Heath training ground as O'Neil and his other team-mates who have not gone away on international duty this week have been put through their paces with daily double training sessions. As well as hard work, though, there has been plenty of banter as the team trained in the autumn sunshine.

Those kind of light-hearted moments were incredibly important for O'Neil on as he recovered from the serious ankle injury he suffered against Aston Villa back in April 2011. That injury saw O'Neil miss the rest of the 2010/11 season and much of last season, but the midfielder battled through and returned four months sooner than expected to play a key role in the Hammers' successful promotion campaign.

Although the initial prognosis was not good, the former England Under-21 international stayed positive in his belief that he would play again. He credits the surgeon who performed his operation and with Hammers' caring medical and sports science staff for his quick recovery.

"I have said that it was a shock when we all realised how serious and how bad it was. It was frightening and I took a while to come to terms with it. But I never accepted that I wouldn't play again and always had in my mind that I would play again.

"I am really lucky. Everyone here - the staff, medical and sports science staff - have been great and I have managed to get back out there. The surgeon did a fantastic job and here I am back playing and enjoying being in this squad.

"It was hard being away from the rest of the team for most of that time. It was all about the long-term goal, though, and I knew I had to train on my own and work hard. So when I came back four months early to play against Derby - which was quicker than we expected - it was all worth it.

"But yes it was hard. The lads were doing a fantastic job trying to get us promoted and one of the best things about getting back is not just playing but being part of the team properly again."

During the endless hours and days spent in the Chadwell Heath recovery rooms, O'Neil says he built up a firm bond with the medical staff at West Ham.

"Even to this day I spend a lot of time with them still! I think you get used to it. The ankle will need some managing here and there, but they have all been fantastic here.

"Also, sports science and medicine has moved on so much I think that if I suffered this injury 20 years ago, I would not have been able to come back.

"The gaffer is big on sports science and the role it plays in football and it has certainly played its part with me recovering from this injury."

Such was the injury that O'Neil had to think - albeit temporarily - about what else he could do should the worst happen. Coaching was the realistic choice but there were dreams of being a professional golfer, with O'Neil well-known at West Ham for his skills on the green.

"I did look at coaching. It wouldn't be the same as playing, but I would like to play a part in helping young footballers come through, so I had to look at my badges and all of that to be prepared.

"If I had a choice? It would be golf - I did try and qualify for the Open in the summer, but didn't do as well as I would have liked, but I did it for the experience and enjoyment. But being realistic, it would be coaching.

"Luckily I am still playing and those thoughts can hopefully wait a while yet. I am enjoying being part of this team and hope to be playing my part this season as we look to do as well as we can."

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