Gary O’Neil’s eventful Norwich City career comes to a sudden stop
- Credit: PA
As Gary O'Neil makes his summer switch from Norwich City, David Freezer looks back on the midfielder's two eventful seasons with the Canaries.
Gary O'Neil's time with Norwich City has finished as quietly as it started with his summer switch to Bristol City but the likeable midfielder did make some noise in between.
The experienced midfielder was brought in by former Canaries boss Neil Adams with little fanfare, just five days before City started their 2014/15 Championship season.
O'Neil made a fitful start to life at Carrow Road, featuring as a substitute four times before making his first start in the embarrassing 1-0 loss at Shrewsbury in the third round of the Capital One Cup.
His first league start came in a 2-1 home win over Bolton at the end of October and the former West Ham man continued to play a more pivotal role in the final days of Adams' reign. His involvement become more limited when Alex Neil arrived in January though.
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He started just twice in the second half of the season, making four appearances as a substitute – including a late cameo in the play-off final.
Some tidy performances and obvious nous meant few fans had an issue with O'Neil coming along for the ride in the top flight, adding some welcome squad depth.
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The midfielder was anything but a passenger in City's unsuccessful battle against the drop though – and even became something of a cult hero as the season progressed.
A combative side of O'Neil's game emerged and helped bring 27 appearances throughout the season, 19 of which were starts, however it was that fighting spirit which makes one incident stand out above the rest.
An out-of-control tackle in the 31st minute of a January game at Stoke brought a red card in a 3-1 loss.
Sliding in from behind on Ibrahim Afellay saw Neil admit his surprise at seeing such an odd mistake.
O'Neil apologised to his team-mates and fans but City went on to lose their three matches without him in the early stages of a disastrous run of nine defeats and two draws in 11 matches which eventually led to relegation.
Of course the experienced campaigner could not take all of the blame but he at least returned to the fold with a point to prove – ending up with stitches on his forehead for his committed efforts.
O'Neil required stitches and Robbie Brady lost a tooth after a gruesome clash during a 2-1 home loss to Chelsea in March and played for much of the rest of the season with a bandage around his head.
Whether that imagery made up for some average top-flight play is debatable but it will remain the lasting memory of an admirable effort, particularly in tandem with Jonny Howson following Alex Tettey's season-ending injury.
He could have been an asset in the Championship but after deciding on a free transfer to Bristol, where he was offered a two-year deal, City are hardly short of options.
With Graeme Dorrans, Youssouf Mulumbu and Vadis Odjidja all still at the club alongside Howson and Tettey, and James Maddison coming in from Coventry, options remain.
O'Neil is likely to be remembered fondly though, after doing the minimum fans expect and giving 100 per cent effort for their team's cause.