Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

I'M HAPPY HERE AND UP FOR THE FIGHT; Star Midfielder O'Neil Tells Boro Supporters:

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

I'M HAPPY HERE AND UP FOR THE FIGHT; Star Midfielder O'Neil Tells Boro Supporters:

Article excerpt

Byline: ERIC PAYLOR

GARY O'NEIL insists he's happy on Teesside and is determined to help Boro return to the Premier League.

Described by Gareth Southgate as arguably the best midfielder in the Championship, O'Neil has been outstanding so far this season and was badly missed when he pulled out of last weekend's clash with West Brom through injury.

It's stark contrast from the 26-year-old's situation in January, when he was keen to leave the club and return to Portsmouth.

There were also suggestions in the media that he might be on his way during the summer.

But the midfielder, who was a pounds 4.5m signing from Pompey in the summer of 2007, admits that he is happy to be still here on Teesside.

O'Neil said: "If I am perfectly honest I am no different to any player because I would love to be playing in the Premier League.

"My initial reaction at the end of last season was that I didn't want to be relegated.

"But there is a big challenge here and that's to get the club back into the Premier League as quickly as possible.

"To be fair the gaffer has been fantastic. He decided he didn't want to sell me and that's fine by me.

"I am happy here. I read the stories in the media saying that I was unsettled, but that's unfair. I am settled.

"I am living here, my wife lives here, and I am here to get on with the job."

O'Neil, meanwhile, is ready to be a "father figure" and help the Boro's kids win promotion at the first attempt.

The grafting midfielder admits he feels like one of the old men of the squad following the summer changes.

But O'Neil, who returns to the side against Coventry City following injury, is relishing the chance to play a big part in the club's youthful revolution.

Gary said: "We had a game at the start of the season where Julio Arca was on the bench, and I was the oldest outfield player. …

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