Kevin O'Connor (footballer, born 1982)

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Kevin O'Connor
Kevin O'Connor 2014.jpg
Personal information
Full name Kevin Patrick O'Connor
Date of birth (1982-02-24) 24 February 1982 (age 33)
Place of birth Blackburn, England
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Playing position Utility player
Youth career
1995–1999 Brentford
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1999–2015 Brentford 426 (32)
National team
2003 Republic of Ireland U21 5 (0)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (Goals).

Kevin 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,[1] captained the club on over 200 occasions and was inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame in 2015.[2] O'Connor represented Republic of Ireland U21 at international level. He is currently Brentford's Development Squad coach.[3]

Career[edit]

1999–2001: Early years[edit]

Born in Blackburn, Lancashire to Irish parents,[4] O'Connor joined Division Two side Brentford as a schoolboy in 1995.[4] He began his career as a striker and was awarded a scholarship in 1998.[2] After a run of 23 goals in 30 games for the reserves,[4] O'Connor signed his first professional contract in 1999.[5] Awarded the number 30 shirt, O'Connor received his maiden call into to the first team squad for a league match against Cardiff City on 12 February 2000.[6] He was an unused substitute for the 1–1 draw. 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. O'Connor made seven appearances during the 1999–2000 season.[8] Now wearing the number 20 shirt, a succession of injuries meant that O'Connor had to wait until December 2000 for his first appearance of the 2000–01 season,[9] starting in a 2–2 league draw with Wigan Athletic, before being substituted for Mark Williams on 62 minutes. O'Connor's appearance against Wigan was the first of a run in the side and he scored the first senior goal of his career in a 2–1 league win over Bristol City on 20 February 2001. He made 12 appearances during the 2000–01 season and scored one goal.[10] He found himself utilised in "the hole" by outgoing manager Ray Lewington.[9]

2001–2004: Breakthrough[edit]

O'Connor became a regular in the first team under new manager Steve Coppell during the 2001–02 season. He scored his second career goal in a 1–0 League Cup first round victory over Norwich City on 21 August 2001. O'Connor appeared in two of Brentford's three playoff games and endured heartbreak in the 2002 Division Two playoff final as the Bees were denied a place in Division One by 2–0 winners Stoke City in his first appearance at the Millennium Stadium, having missed the 2001 Football League Trophy final. O'Connor made 32 appearances during the 2001–02 season, scoring one goal.[11] O'Connor was an ever-present as a winger under new manager Wally Downes during the 2002–03 season and was awarded the number 9 shirt. O'Connor scored his first ever brace with two penalties in a 3–3 League Cup second round draw with Bournemouth on 10 September 2002, scoring a third penalty in the resultant shootout. He scored again in the following game against Tranmere Rovers, to take his tally to three goals in two games. Through November 2002 to January 2003, O'Connor went on a run of scoring five goals in 11 games. He finished the 2002–03 season having scored nine goals in 53 appearances.[12] O'Connor signed a new three-year contract in June 2003.[9] O'Connor made consistent appearances during the 2003–04 season[13] and kept his place in the team following the departure of Downes and the appointment of Martin Allen as manager. He scored the equaliser in a 1–1 draw with bitter rivals Queens Park Rangers in the West London derby on 14 February 2004.

2004–2007: Conversion to right back[edit]

Now donning the number 16 shirt, O'Connor began the 2004–05 season as a substitute and scored the only goal of the game versus Wrexham on 14 August 2004 with a memorable 20-yard volley.[14] An injury to Michael Dobson in a 4–1 defeat to Bristol City (a game in which O'Connor scored) on 30 August[15] saw Martin Allen press O'Connor into service as a right back for much of the season. O'Connor was awarded the captaincy for the first time for a match against Hartlepool United on 19 October.[2] He made 44 appearances during the 2004–05 season, scoring two goals[16] as Brentford failed to progress past Sheffield Wednesday in the 2005 playoff semi-finals. O'Connor's performances earned him the "Most Improved Player Of The Year" award.[17] After the season, he was rewarded with a new two-year contract extension.[9] O'Connor was awarded the number 2 shirt and was Martin Allen's first-choice right back for the 2005–06 season. He became the club's regular penalty taker, netting from the spot against Rochdale, Tranmere Rovers and Walsall. O'Connor was nominated for the "Most Improved Player Of The Year" award towards the end of the season.[18] He finished the 2005–06 season having scored eight goals in 38 appearances,[19] but once again he suffered playoff heartbreak as Brentford failed over overcome Swansea City in the 2006 playoff semi-finals. O'Connor was once again the first-choice right back under new manager Leroy Rosenior during the 2006–07 season and kept his place after Rosenior was sacked and former-teammate Scott Fitzgerald was appointed manager in December 2006.[20] He signed a new contract in September 2006, running until June 2009.[9] O'Connor made 43 appearances and scored seven goals,[21] but his efforts to prevent Brentford suffering relegation with a bottom-place finish in League One were in vain.

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. He had a good start to the season, scoring in consecutive games against Notts County and Barnet in August 2007. O'Connor made 41 appearances and scored three goals[22] as Brentford finished in mid-table. Under new manager Andy Scott, O'Connor began the 2008–09 season as a substitute. O'Connor was 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.[23] An injury to captain Adam Newton towards the end of 2008 saw O'Connor take over the armband. O'Connor made his 300th start for Brentford on 7 February 2009 against Chester City at Griffin Park.[24] Despite missing the last nine games of the 2008–09 season, O'Connor made 33 appearances and scored one goal[25] as Brentford were promoted as League Two champions.

2009–2011: Captain[edit]

O'Connor signed a new two-year contract in June 2009.[9] 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.[26] He scored a brace of penalties in a 2–1 league victory over Tranmere Rovers on 29 September 2009.[27] He made his 400th Bees appearance in a 3–2 defeat to Swindon Town on 1 May 2010.[28][29] After completing ten years of continuous service as a Brentford player, O'Connor was rewarded with a testimonial on 14 July 2010 against local rivals Fulham.[30] 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.[31] In January 2011, he signed a new two-and-a-half-year contract.[9] After the appointment of striker Nicky Forster as interim manager (replacing the sacked Andy Scott) in February 2011, O'Connor found himself in and out of the side and he 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, despite having started in every game on the way to the final.[32] O'Connor appeared as an 89th minute substitute appearance in the game, which Brentford lost 1–0 to Carlisle United. O'Connor made 53 appearances during the 2010–11 season.[33]

2011–2014: Injury hell[edit]

Under new manager Uwe Rösler, O'Connor began the 2011–12 season mostly as a substitute and scored his first goal of the campaign with a winning penalty in a 1–0 league victory over Wycombe Wanderers on 10 September 2011.[34] He scored another penalty four games later in a 3–0 Football League Trophy second round win away at Charlton Athletic.[35] O'Connor suffered a serious injury in a 1–0 FA Cup first round win over Basingstoke Town on 12 November, collapsing in agony after catching his foot in the turf.[36] He had made 18 appearances and scored two goals[37] until ankle injury[38] ended his season. Following a successful recovery, O'Connor returned to the team in time for the start of the 2012–13 season and featured regularly as a substitute. After making 11 appearances, he suffered a serious leg and ankle injury while falling in a tackle[39] in a 1–0 victory over Portsmouth on 6 November 2012[40] and it was determined that he would be out for six months.[40] O'Connor signed a new contract in March 2013, running until June 2014.[9] O'Connor returned to the first team on 10 April 2013, when he was an unused substitute in a 2–0 victory over Crewe Alexandra.[41] He was pressed into service in the next game, replacing 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.[42] Craig's three match suspension began on Brentford's penultimate game of the season against Hartlepool United. 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.[43]

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. With the score at 0–0, Brentford were awarded a penalty in the fourth of five minutes' injury time.[44] 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,[45] with the intent to take the penalty. 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.[46] 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".[47] O'Connor later iterated that if Brentford were to get a penalty during the playoffs, he would take it.[44]

2013 playoffs and reaching 500 appearances[edit]

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.[45] It proved to be his last appearance of the season after Tony Craig had served his suspension and returned to the starting lineup. O'Connor was an unused substitute for the 2013 playoff final, which was won 2–1 by Yeovil Town. He made 16 appearances during the 2012–13 season.[48] 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.[49] He also made starting appearances at centre back in League Cup first and second round ties versus Dagenham & Redbridge[50] and Derby County respectively (the latter a 5–0 defeat)[51] and in a 5–3 Football League Trophy first round victory over AFC Wimbledon.[52] A groin injury suffered in October 2013 saw O'Connor miss two months of the season,[53] before his return to the bench as an unused substitute for a 1–0 league victory over Oldham Athletic on 14 December.[54] O'Connor made his first appearance in over four months with a start in a 2–0 win over Port Vale on 11 January 2014.[55] He deputised at centre back for Harlee Dean and played the full 90 minutes alongside Tony Craig. After four consecutive starts, the club began negotiations over a new one-year contract in early February 2014.[56]

On 20 March 2014, O'Connor signed a new one-year contract, tying him to the Bees until the summer of 2015.[57] After being included in most matchday squads until the end of the 2013–14 season (and following automatic promotion to the Championship with three games to spare), O'Connor made his first appearance in nearly four months when he came on for James Tarkowski after 65 minutes of a 2–2 draw versus Milton Keynes Dons on 21 April.[58] Manager Mark Warburton refused to be drawn on whether O'Connor would appear in the two remaining games of the season, which would see O'Connor reach 500 Brentford appearances.[59] O'Connor replaced Alan McCormack to make a late cameo in a 4–1 defeat to Colchester United on 26 April, an appearance which took him to 499.[60] O'Connor's 500th Brentford appearance came in a 2–0 win over Stevenage on the final day of the season,[61] taking over the captain's armband from the injured Tony Craig after 26 minutes.[62] After the match concluded, O'Connor jointly lifted the League One runners-up trophy with Craig.[63] He finished the 2013–14 season with 12 appearances[64] and won a Special Achievement Award for reaching 500 appearances.[65] Realising his playing time could be limited in the Championship, O'Connor told the Hounslow Chronicle "I’ve got a young family so I don’t particularly want to travel around the country to try and prolong my playing days. I hope to finish my career here. If I’m not playing as much next season then I will do more on the coaching side".[66] Mark Warburton stated "let's be clear about one thing, he (O'Connor) is not finished yet, we are not dusting him down and putting him in a museum just yet. Kevin has still got a big role to play for us".[67]

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

O'Connor began the 2014–15 pre-season as first choice at left back, appearing against Boreham Wood (scoring a penalty),[68] Barnet (missing a penalty)[69] and Osasuna.[70] O'Connor made his first competitive appearance of the season in a League Cup first round match versus Dagenham & Redbridge on 12 August 2014.[71] 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.[71][72] 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".[73] Coming into the final few months of his contract and ahead of an overhaul of the Bees' coaching structure at the end of the 2014–15 season, O'Connor revealed in March 2015 that he didn't know what his future held.[74] On 3 May, O'Connor was inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame, the first person to be inducted while still under contract to the club.[75] Following Brentford's defeat to Middlesbrough in the playoff semi-finals, O'Connor announced his retirement from football,[3] having made just a single appearance during the 2014–15 season.[72] He made 501 appearances and scored 44 goals in 16 seasons at Griffin Park, finishing his career in fourth position on Brentford's all-time record appearances list.[3]

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. 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.[76] O'Connor made his first start two days later in a 1–0 defeat to Albania, lasting 76 minutes before being taken off for Noel Hunt.[77] He made three more appearances in 2003, against Georgia, Russia, and Switzerland.[78][79][80]

Coaching career[edit]

O'Connor began taking his coaching badges in 2009.[81] 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.[57] He studied for his FA Level 3 coaching badge in May 2014.[2] He enrolled on the UEFA 'B' course in the early months of the 2014–15 season (studying alongside classmates such as Paulo Ferreira, Joe Cole, Henrique Hilário and former teammate Alan Bennett)[82] and gained the qualification in December 2014.[73] He was announced as Brentford's Development Squad coach on 25 May 2015, working under manager Lee Carsley.[3]

Personal life[edit]

O'Connor was born to Irish parents, his father Pat is from Kerry and his mother Sheila was from Mayo.[4] He has two brothers (Stephen and Damien) and his sister Kerry was also footballer on the books at Chelsea and Barnet during the 2000s.[81] Sheila died in 2007.[2] He married Penny in Las Vegas in June 2005 and as of February 2009 was living in Langley.[81] He loosely supports Arsenal and hometown club Blackburn Rovers.[81]

Honours[edit]

As a player[edit]

As an individual[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

As of 25 May 2015[83]
Season Club Division League FA Cup League Cup FL Trophy Play-offs Total Discipline
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals A yellow card A red card
1999–2000[8] Brentford League One 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 7 0 0 0
2000–01[10] 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[12] 45 5 4 1 2 2 2 1 53 9 2 0
2003–04[13] 43 1 2 1 1 0 2 0 48 2 5 0
2004–05[16] 38 2 5 0 2 0 0 0 44 2 3 0
2005–06[19] 30 7 5 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 38 8 4 0
2006–07[21] 39 6 1 0 1 1 2 0 43 7 2 0
2007–08[22] League Two 37 3 2 0 1 0 1 0 41 3 3 0
2008–09[25] 28 0 2 0 1 0 2 1 33 1 3 1
2009–10[26] League One 43 4 4 1 1 0 1 0 49 5 5 0
2010–11[33] 41 2 2 0 4 0 6 0 53 2 2 0
2011–12[37] 14 1 1 0 1 0 2 1 18 2 1 0
2012–13[48] 12 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 16 1 3 0
2013–14[64] 9 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 12 0 1 0
2014–15[72] Championship 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 421 32 31 4 21 4 23 2 5 1 501 44 39 1

References[edit]

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External links[edit]