Edmonton Cup hero’s joy at Pompey second chance

Liam O'Brien, right, and the Edmonton Cup winners. Picture: Joe Pepler
Liam O'Brien, right, and the Edmonton Cup winners. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gaffer: Pompey defender needs to return to centre-back

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THAT photograph of the triumphant Edmonton Cup side was staged more than six years ago.

A scan of the jubilant line-up throws up the familiar faces of Joel Ward, Matt Ritchie, Marlon Park and Celtic’s Nadir Ciftci, esteemed products of Pompey’s youth system.

Cotterill didn’t fancy me at all. I was still contracted but obviously he didn’t like me or a few of the other lads around that time and I went

Liam O’Brien

To the far right stands Liam O’Brien, the goalkeeper introduced early on for the injured Jon Stewart and subsequently establishing himself as a penalty shoot-out hero over FC Edmonton.

Now, aged 25, O’Brien is back.

Steve Cotterill instigated his release in October 2010, opening the door for spells at Barnet, Brentford and Dagenham & Redbridge.

On Monday night the stopper was a member of the Blues reserve side which defeated Southend 2-1 in the qualifiers for the Premier League Cup.

It represented a first Pompey appearance at any level for O’Brien since facing DC United during that American tour in July 2010.

And he is delighted to be home.

He said: ‘It’s great to be back, I should never have left, really but I’m here now.

‘I didn’t really get given much of a choice six years ago, I was told I had to leave, the club financially were going the wrong way and that was it.

‘Cotterill didn’t fancy me at all. I was still contracted but obviously he didn’t like me or a few of the other lads around that time and I went.

‘For a month-and-a-half I was out of football, keeping myself fit, while the timing of my departure was after the transfer window so I couldn’t sign anywhere.

‘It wasn’t until the January when I joined Barnet having trained with them beforehand.

‘During those six years away I have been in League One, League Two and non-league and that is where you learn, I have come back a different player and a different person.

‘I am fighting for my career whereas before I was young and didn’t see into the future, I just assumed everything was going to be good. Then you grow up and realise it isn’t.

‘Pompey was my first real club, the first club I was involved in full-time, I’ve always had a soft spot and as soon as there was a chance I was straight back.

‘It was a great pre-season tour all those years ago, the first time I had been to America, even if we were up in the air more than on the ground!

‘We won the Edmonton Cup and you look at the photo and see some of the players there such as Ritchie and Ward, players who have really gone on.

‘I never wanted to leave – but I’m back having learnt my trade and can hopefully break into the Pompey team.’

O’Brien has signed on month-by-month terms, serving as substitute keeper for Pompey’s last four first-team matches.

His parents still live in Portchester having moved down during his Academy days, his dad a regular at Fratton Park.

As for O’Brien, he has long been settled in Gosport.

He added: ‘I live in Gosport with my girlfriend. When I was at Dagenham I would travel back and forth, so it has all worked out.

‘Hopefully I can make an impression.’