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2012-11-22T07:00:00 Updated 2015-02-19T01:39:31

West Ham United's pass master

You do not have to look far down the list of West Ham United's pass completion statistics to find the name Gary O'Neil.

The No32 has completed a higher percentage of passes than any other Hammers player this season, with 82 of his 96 attempts - 85.4 per cent - successfully finding a team-mate. On Monday evening at home to Stoke City, O'Neil was at it again, completing 85 per cent of his passes and providing a pinpoint cross for Joey O'Brien to score West Ham's equaliser.

The Hammers' pass master made his first Barclays Premier League start of the season against the Potters - and his first top-flight start since suffering a career-threatening ankle injury while playing against Aston Villa in April 2011. Whether it has been starting or coming off the bench, the 28-year-old has made a positive contribution every time he has appeared this term. O'Neil told West Ham TV he is eager to keep producing the goods and keep his place in Sam Allardyce's starting line-up.

"I found the match a little bit tough with the 90 minutes on Monday night, compared to coming on for half an hour where the adrenalin helps you through it," he admitted. "It is a long time since I played 90 minutes - the last time was the Play-Off semi-final against Cardiff in May, so it's been a long time.

"It has taken me 18 months to get back to starting a Premier League game since my injury, but I needed the time. People get frustrated when you make silly mistakes, but when you haven't been in the starting eleven for such a long time it is harder to work out what wavelength the other lads are on.

"Hopefully I can keep my place and start to get a little run in the team and then it will start to get easier.

"You have to be patient, especially nowadays because there is a lot of good players around and a lot of big squads. It is not like it used to be when everyone starts and you have got 13 players. It is not easy to get a start, but I haven't caused a fuss. I just get on with it  and I get on well with the gaffer and all the staff here.

"I am really enjoying it and I was just pleased to get a start, albeit because there were a lot of injuries. I was just disappointed that my start didn't coincide with another win."

O'Neil might have been a bit stiff and tired after putting in a fantastic shift on the right of the front three against Stoke, but he was delighted to have played a central part in West Ham's equaliser. He later came within inches of curling in a sensational winner.

"The gaffer said that if we did get a chance to cross it, try and slide it in behind them rather than hanging it up. We hadn't got down into that area too often, so the first chance I had, I managed to get it in underneath and surprisingly saw Joey on the end of it - I was really pleased for him!

"In the end it is a decent point because when you go 1-0 down to them, especially when they make it as difficult as they do and it keeps our little three-game unbeaten run going. I think we showed a good spirit today in the second half. The fans were great behind that goal helping us drag it in, so it was a good point after being 1-0 down."

That unbeaten run will come under severe pressure over the next few weeks, with West Ham preparing for trips to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, followed by the visits of Chelsea and Liverpool to east London. While those fixtures may look extremely tough on paper, O'Neil said that West Ham's current form means they do not fear any of their opponents.

"It should be tough on Sunday, with Tottenham coming off a defeat at Arsenal as well. It is always a difficult place to go. Hopefully we can get a few of the lads back because we are a bit bare at the minute.

"We have gone to Newcastle and won and we did well here against Manchester City. We have done well against teams that finished high up in the Premier League last season. Hopefully that can continue on Sunday, but they are a good side, especially at home. It will be a big one for the fans. I know they will be desperate to get something there and the lads will be well aware of that.

"I think we have taken last year's form, where we were used to winning games in the Championship, and so far we have brought it up with us. We do look tough to beat and we have a great team spirit.

"The only thing is, it is a long, long season, we are only 12 games into it and there is a long way to go. We need to make sure that we keep those standards up because, if we drop even one or two per cent, it will definitely show."


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