Kevin O'Connor (footballer, born 1982)

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Kevin O'Connor
Kevin O'Connor, on tour in Italy, Oct 2017.png
O'Connor in October 2017.
Personal information
Full name Kevin Patrick O'Connor[1]
Date of birth (1982-02-24) 24 February 1982 (age 37)
Place of birth Blackburn, England
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Playing position Utility player
Club information
Current team
Brentford (assistant)
Youth career
0000–1995 Southampton
1995–1999 Brentford
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1999–2015 Brentford 426 (32)
National team
2003 Republic of Ireland U21 6 (0)
Teams managed
2015–2016 Brentford Development Squad
2016–2018 Brentford B
2018– Brentford (assistant)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Kevin Patrick O'Connor (born 24 February 1982) is a retired professional football utility player who made over 500 appearances for Brentford. A one-club man, at the time of his retirement in May 2015 he was Brentford's longest serving player, having signed his first professional contract in 1999. He is fourth on the most Brentford appearances list,[2] captained the club on over 200 occasions and was inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame in 2015.[3] He represented Republic of Ireland U21 at international level and is currently assistant head coach at Brentford.

Career[edit]

1999–2001: Early years[edit]

After two years as a schoolboy with Southampton,[4] O'Connor joined Second Division club Brentford as a schoolboy in 1995.[5] He began his career as a forward and was awarded a scholarship in 1998.[3] After a run of 23 goals in 30 games for the reserves,[5] O'Connor received his maiden call into the first team squad for a league match against Cardiff City on 12 February 2000 and remained an unused substitute during the 1–1 draw.[6] O'Connor made his Brentford debut in a 3–2 Football League Trophy semi-final defeat at Exeter City on 15 February 2000, replacing Ívar Ingimarsson after 85 minutes.[7] He was awarded his first start in a goalless league draw with Wycombe Wanderers on 19 February 2000 and signed a two-year professional contract on the same day.[4][7] O'Connor made seven appearances during the 1999–2000 season.[7]

A succession of injuries meant that O'Connor had to wait until December 2000 for his first appearance of the 2000–01 season, starting in a 2–2 league draw with Wigan Athletic, before being substituted for Mark Williams on 62 minutes.[8] O'Connor's appearance against Wigan was the first of a run in the team and he scored the first senior goal of his career in a 2–1 league win over Bristol City on 20 February 2001.[8] He made 12 appearances during the 2000–01 season and scored one goal.[8] He found himself utilised in "the hole" by outgoing manager Ray Lewington.[9]

2001–2004: Breakthrough[edit]

O'Connor became a regular second-half substitute under new manager Steve Coppell during the 2001–02 season.[10] He appeared in two of Brentford's three playoff games and endured heartbreak in the 2002 Second Division playoff Final as the Bees were denied a place in the First Division by 2–0 winners Stoke City in his first appearance at the Millennium Stadium,[11] as he had missed the 2001 Football League Trophy Final.[8] O'Connor made 32 appearances during the 2001–02 season, scoring one goal.[11]

O'Connor was an ever-present as a right winger under new manager Wally Downes during the 2002–03 season and scored his first ever brace with two penalties in a 3–3 League Cup second round draw with Bournemouth on 10 September 2002,[12] in addition to converting a third penalty in the resultant shootout.[13] Through November 2002 to January 2003, O'Connor went on a run of scoring five goals in 11 games and finished the 2002–03 season having scored 9 goals in 53 appearances.[13]

After signing a new three-year contract in June 2003,[14] O'Connor appeared consistently during the 2003–04 season and kept his place in the team following the sacking of Downes and the appointment of Martin Allen as manager in March 2004.[15][16] He scored the equaliser in a 1–1 draw with bitter rivals Queens Park Rangers in the West London derby on 14 February 2004.[15]

2004–2007: Conversion to right back[edit]

O'Connor began the 2004–05 season as a substitute,[17] but an injury to Michael Dobson in a 4–1 defeat to Bristol City (a game in which O'Connor scored) on 30 August saw Martin Allen press O'Connor into service as a right back for much of the season.[12][18] O'Connor was awarded the captaincy for the first time for a match against Hartlepool United on 19 October.[3] He made 44 appearances during the 2004–05 season and scored two goals as Brentford failed to progress past Sheffield Wednesday in the 2005 playoff semi-finals.[18] O'Connor's performances in his new right back position earned him the "Most Improved Player Of The Year" award.[19] After the season, he signed a two-year contract extension.[9]

O'Connor was Martin Allen's first-choice right back for the 2005–06 season and became the club's regular penalty taker, scoring from the spot against Rochdale, Tranmere Rovers and Walsall.[20] O'Connor was again nominated for the club's "Most Improved Player Of The Year" award.[21] He finished the 2005–06 season having scored eight goals in 38 appearances, but once again he suffered playoff heartbreak as Brentford failed over overcome Swansea City in the 2006 playoff semi-finals.[20]

O'Connor was promoted to captain under new manager Leroy Rosenior during the early months of the 2006–07 season.[12][22] He signed a contract extension in September 2006, which would run until the end of the 2008–09 season.[23] O'Connor made 43 appearances and scored seven goals during the 2006–07 season,[24] but his efforts to prevent Brentford suffering relegation with a bottom-place finish in League One were in vain.[25]

2007–2009: Central midfield[edit]

Following the signings of right backs Ben Starosta and Craig Pead by new manager Terry Butcher prior to the 2007–08 season, O'Connor played predominantly in central midfield for his first season in League Two,[12] though he lost the captaincy to new signing John Mackie.[26] He had a good start to the season, scoring in consecutive games against Notts County and Barnet in August 2007.[27] O'Connor made 41 appearances and scored three goals as Brentford finished in mid-table.[25][27]

Under new manager Andy Scott, O'Connor was named captain and began the 2008–09 season as a starter,[28] but he lost his place in the team after being sent off for the only time in his career, just 14 minutes after coming on for Craig Pead in a 2–1 league win over Dagenham & Redbridge on 6 September 2008.[29] After a period out of favour, an injury to replacement captain Adam Newton in November 2008 saw O'Connor regain the armband and he went on to form a midfield partnership with Marcus Bean.[28] He made his 300th start for Brentford on 7 February 2009 against Chester City at Griffin Park.[28] Despite missing the last 9 games of the 2008–09 season with a knee ligament injury, O'Connor made 33 appearances and scored one goal as Brentford were promoted as League Two champions.[28][30] He held the winners' trophy aloft with stand-in captain Alan Bennett after the final game of the season against Luton Town.[31][32]

2009–2011: Captain[edit]

O'Connor signed a new two-year contract in June 2009.[33] Back in League One for the 2009–10 season, O'Connor appeared in all but three of Brentford's matches, making 49 appearances and scoring five goals.[34] He scored a brace of penalties in a 2–1 league victory over Tranmere Rovers on 29 September 2009.[34] He made his 400th Bees appearance in a 3–2 defeat to Swindon Town on 1 May 2010.[35][36] After completing 10 years of continuous service as a Brentford player, O'Connor was awarded a testimonial on 14 July 2010 against local rivals Fulham.[37]

O'Connor began the 2010–11 season as an ever-present in central midfield and scored his only two goals of the season in a 3–0 away league victory over Tranmere Rovers on 16 October 2010.[38] In January 2011, he signed a new two-and-a-half-year contract.[39] After the appointment of forward Nicky Forster as interim manager (replacing the sacked Andy Scott) in February 2011, O'Connor found himself in and out of the team and was "extremely disappointed" that he was denied the chance to lead the team out as captain at Wembley Stadium in the 2011 Football League Trophy Final,[40] despite having started in every game on the way to the final.[41] O'Connor appeared as an 88th-minute substitute appearance in the game, which Brentford lost 1–0 to Carlisle United.[42] O'Connor made 53 appearances during the 2010–11 season.[38]

2011–2014: Injury hell[edit]

Under new manager Uwe Rösler, O'Connor began the 2011–12 season mostly as a substitute and suffered a serious ankle injury in a 1–0 FA Cup first round win over Basingstoke Town on 12 November.[43][44] He had made 18 appearances and scored two goals before the injury ended his season.[45][46] O'Connor returned to the team in time for the start of the 2012–13 season and featured regularly as a substitute.[47] After making 11 appearances, he suffered a serious leg and ankle injury while falling in a tackle in a 1–0 victory over Portsmouth on 6 November 2012 and it was determined that he would be out for six months.[48][49] O'Connor signed a new one-year contract in March 2013.[50] He returned to the first team on 16 April 2013,[51] as a substitute for Lee Hodson after 66 minutes of a pulsating 2–2 draw with Sheffield United, a game which saw Tony Craig and Clayton Donaldson sent off for Brentford.[52] Craig's three match suspension began on Brentford's penultimate game of the season against Hartlepool United.[53] Still not fully fit, O'Connor filled in at centre back alongside Harlee Dean in the 1–1 draw, having never played the position before.[54]

Doncaster Rovers penalty incident[edit]

Brentford's final game of the 2012–13 season was against Doncaster Rovers at Griffin Park, with the Bees needing to win to secure automatic promotion to the Championship.[55] With the score at 0–0, Brentford were awarded a penalty in the fourth of five minutes' injury time.[56] Before the game, the team was made aware that O'Connor was Uwe Rösler's designated penalty taker, but substitute striker Marcello Trotta grabbed the ball from O'Connor, with the intent to take the penalty.[57] Trotta crashed the spot kick against the bar and Doncaster scored a breakaway goal through James Coppinger to win 1–0 and consign Brentford to the playoffs.[55] O'Connor admitted after the game that he "tried to follow orders but Trotts has gone into the zone, got the ball and he was extremely confident. What can you say? If he scores it, it’s perfect but unfortunately he’s missed it and it’s cost us".[58] O'Connor later iterated that if Brentford were to get a penalty during the playoffs, he would take it.[56]

2013 playoffs and reaching 500 appearances[edit]

O'Connor in April 2014.

Brentford met Swindon Town in the semi-finals of the 2013 playoffs and trailing 1–0 in the first leg, the Bees were awarded an injury time penalty, which O'Connor converted for his only goal of the season.[57] It proved to be his last appearance of the season after Tony Craig had served his suspension and returned to the starting lineup.[47] O'Connor was an unused substitute during the 2013 League One playoff Final, which was won 2–1 by Yeovil Town.[47] He made 16 appearances during the 2012–13 season.[51]

O'Connor returned fully fit for the 2013–14 season and once again deputised at centre back for Tony Craig in the 1–1 opening day draw with Port Vale.[59] A groin injury suffered in October 2013 saw O'Connor miss two months of the season.[60] After returning to fitness, made his first appearance in over four months with a start in a 2–0 win over Port Vale on 11 January 2014.[61] O'Connor deputised at centre back for Harlee Dean and played the full 90 minutes alongside Tony Craig.[61] He signed a new one-year contract on 20 March 2014.[62] Following automatic promotion to the Championship with three games to spare, O'Connor appeared in each match to bring him up to 500 Brentford appearances.[63] After the final game against Stevenage concluded, O'Connor jointly lifted the League One runners-up trophy with stand-in captain Tony Craig.[64] He finished the 2013–14 season with 12 appearances and won a Special Achievement Award for reaching 500 appearances.[61][65]

2014–2015: Player/coach and retirement[edit]

O'Connor made his only appearance of the 2014–15 season in a League Cup first round match versus Dagenham & Redbridge on 12 August 2014.[66] He started the match and scored the winning penalty, after the game had to be settled from the spot with the score level at an incredible 6–6 after extra time.[67] Mark Warburton hinted in December 2014 that O'Connor had come to the end of his playing days, saying "he has had a great career, but he's not stupid and knows the focus has got to be on the next stage of his career now".[68] On 3 May 2015, O'Connor was inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame, the first person to be inducted while still under contract to the club.[69] Following Brentford's defeat to Middlesbrough in the playoff semi-finals, he announced his retirement from football.[70] O'Connor made 501 appearances and scored 44 goals in 16 seasons at Griffin Park and finished his career in fourth position on Brentford's all-time record appearances list.[2][70] For his service to Brentford, he was presented with the Sir Tom Finney Award at the 2017 EFL Awards.[71]

International career[edit]

Owing to his Irish heritage, O'Connor's form for Brentford during the 2002–03 season saw him called up by Republic of Ireland U21 manager Don Givens for his team's 2004 European U21 Championship qualifying campaign.[6] He made his debut in a 1–1 away draw with Georgia on 28 March 2003, coming on as a substitute for John Thompson after 81 minutes and setting up the equalising goal with a pass to Noel Hunt.[72] O'Connor made his first start two days later in a 1–0 defeat to Albania, lasting 76 minutes before being taken off for Hunt.[73] He won four further caps in 2003, against Georgia, Russia, Switzerland and a friendly versus Poland.[6]

Coaching career[edit]

Early years[edit]

O'Connor began taking his coaching badges in 2009.[74] He studied for his FA Level 3 coaching badge in May 2014.[3] He enrolled on the UEFA B Licence course in the early months of the 2014–15 season (studying alongside former teammate Alan Bennett)[75] and gained the qualification in December 2014.[68] From the beginning of the 2014–15 season, O'Connor assumed coaching responsibilities at Brentford and began working with the first team, Development Squad and academy players and staff.[62] As of December 2015, he was working on his UEFA A Licence and by June 2019,[76] he had received his UEFA Pro Licence.[77]

Brentford B/Development Squad coach (2015–2018)[edit]

On 25 May 2015, shortly after his retirement as a player, O'Connor was announced as Brentford's Development Squad assistant coach, working under head coach Lee Carsley.[70] On 29 September 2015, O'Connor took over from Carsley and remained Head Coach until 4 January 2016,[78] when he reverted to his previous position upon the appointment of Flemming Pedersen.[79] On 17 November 2016, O'Connor took over the permanent role of Brentford B head coach from Pedersen and stayed in the position until mid-December 2018.[80]

Brentford assistant head coach (2018–present)[edit]

On 13 December 2018, O'Connor was named as assistant head coach of the Brentford first team, working under head coach Thomas Frank and alongside Brian Riemer.[81] His role was described as that of "the bridge between the players and the coaching staff".[82]

Personal life[edit]

O'Connor was born to Irish parents in Blackburn – his father Pat is from Kerry and his mother Sheila was from Mayo and the family moved back to South London four days after O'Connor was born.[5][83] He has two brothers (Stephen and Damian) and his sister Kerry was also footballer on the books at Chelsea and Barnet during the 2000s.[74] Sheila died in July 2007.[84] O'Connor attended The Douay Martyrs School in Ickenham.[83] He married Penny in Las Vegas in June 2005 and as of February 2009 was living in Langley.[85]

Honours[edit]

As a player[edit]

Brentford

As an individual[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

Club Season League FA Cup League Cup FL Trophy Play-offs Total Discipline
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals A yellow card A red card
Brentford 1999–2000[7] Second Division 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 7 0 0 0
2000–01[8] 11 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 12 1 4 0
2001–02[11] 25 0 2 0 2 1 1 0 2 0 32 1 1 0
2002–03[13] 45 5 4 1 2 2 2 1 53 9 2 0
2003–04[15] 43 1 2 1 1 0 2 0 48 2 5 0
2004–05[18] League One 37 2 5 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 44 2 3 0
2005–06[20] 30 7 5 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 38 8 4 0
2006–07[24] 39 6 1 0 1 1 2 0 43 7 2 0
2007–08[27] League Two 37 3 2 0 1 0 1 0 41 3 3 0
2008–09[30] 28 0 2 0 1 0 2 1 33 1 3 1
2009–10[34] League One 43 4 4 1 1 0 1 0 49 5 5 0
2010–11[38] 41 2 2 0 4 0 6 0 53 2 2 0
2011–12[45] 14 1 1 0 1 0 2 1 18 2 1 0
2012–13[51] 12 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 16 1 3 0
2013–14[61] 9 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 12 0 1 0
2014–15[66] Championship 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 420 32 31 4 20 4 23 2 6 1 501 44 39 1

References[edit]

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External links[edit]