Former Portsmouth midfielder Gary O'Neil training with MK Dons - and what Blues fans have been saying to get him back to Fratton Park
Former Pompey midfielder Gary O’Neil is training with MK Dons.
The free agent is still looking for a new club after leaving Bolton at the end of last season, and has linked up with the League One side to maintain his fitness.
The 36-year-old started for the Dons’ reserves in a Central League game against Peterborough United this afternoon.
However, manager Paul Tisdale has already suggested that the current arrangement is purely for training purposes.
In a Twitter post put out by MK Dons today, Tisdale is quoted as saying: ‘Gary has been training with us while he searches for a new club. He can help us out in terms of numbers for games like this.’
O’Neil featured 193 times for Pompey between 2000-2007, scoring 17 goals.
He was part of the Blues squad that won the old First Division title in the 2002-03 season, and played 100 top-flight games for Pompey in the Premier League.
He joined Middlesbrough for £5m in August 2007, before enjoying spells at West Ham, QPR, Norwich, Bristol City and then Bolton.
Last year, O’Neil told The News it would be a dream to make an emotional return to Fratton Park as a player.
And in recent weeks Blues fans have been in regular contact with him via twitter in an attempt to engineer a move back to PO4.
Amongst those posts, @pompeyshaun1986 tweeted: ‘Come Gary, get yourself back to Fratton. We need an experienced head, plus I have never got over Harry selling you to Boro and buying Diop’.
@ClinicalCrouch said: ‘We’ll get the agent on the phone and get down here, get a coaching role for when you retire aswell’.
@LotharMattaus2 chipped in by saying: Come back Gaz........what a servant to the club’.
Meanwhile, @Jackettsjacket added: ’Should be back here as squad player. His experience would help out what is an inexperienced team.
‘He's been a youngster dealing with what is a unique crowd & embraced it, would help guys coming through.
‘Got player of year at Bolton last year but not got club. Just don't get’.
Among the calls for a Fratton Park return, though, O’Neil has had to defend his stats to one supposed Blues supporter and explain to him why he’s still capable of playing at a high level.
It was suggested in one tweet that the midfielder no longer 'had the engine for pro level football any more'. The statement ‘Dribble success rate on there (Wyscout) is poor too’ was also added to the conversation.
However in a series of tweets O’Neil responded: ‘Average of 11.9km per game mate... so yeah I’m getting old.. but the engine definitely isn’t a problem.. any way enjoy your stat packs I’m gonna jump on the treadmill.’
Another one also read: ‘I’m gonna try to educate you here William. I’m a cm who was used as a number 10 and a right winger an awful lot. So at times I was forced to dribble when that’s not what I do... check the stats column for prem apps 220? Champ apps 250? League one apps 0000.’