Birmingham City could be witnessing the dawn of the best era of Garry O’Connor’s career.
That is the opinion of the confident Scotland international striker who believes that he is tantalisingly close to reaching his peak as a footballer.
Having been brought to Birmingham from Lokomotiv Moscow by former manager Steve Bruce, O’Connor endured an indifferent first season in English football. Relegation from the Premier League didn’t help.
However, having been given orders to get in shape by current Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, O’Connor trimmed down and returned to the club’s summer camp in Austria a new man.
He was the club’s top scorer during pre-season and found the net five times in the opening two months of the Championship campaign until the curse of many a good footballer struck – injury.
A niggling groin problem put a large four-and-a-half month dent in O’Connor’s 2008/09 but having returned to his goal-scoring ways in Monday night’s 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, it hasn’t dented his confidence.
Now, minus his menacing neck tattoo, O’Connor is a more mature footballer who insists that his best is just around the corner.
“I think I’m reaching my peak. I have felt really good about things this season,” admitted Edinburgh-born O’Connor. “I had a good pre-season and then obviously got the injury but I’m beginning to peak again.
“The boys in training have been saying that I’m starting to look sharp again. Once the boys start commenting on your shape and the way you are training, it’s positive.
“I must admit that it has been a lot of hard work coming back but I think it’s time for me to peak. I’m getting older, I’m getting mature, players tend to peak between 25 and 28 so it’s a big next three years for me so hopefully I can push on and show the signs of a quality player coming out.
“I’d say that Blues fans can see the best of Garry O’Connor and let’s hope it is like that. If I can stay injury free and keep doing the right things fitness-wise and the gaffer is getting the best out of me, then I think I’m ready to kick-start my career here at Blues.
“I’m learning all the time. I’ve improved as a player and a person this year. Hopefully I can go on and be a real class player and show the Premier League the player I am next year.”
From the highs of the Wolves victory, Birmingham could find themselves suffering the lows of being back down in third-place in the Championship when they head to Charlton Athletic on Saturday.
Following Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory over Barnsley, Sheffield United are mounting a serious challenge to Birmingham’s hopes as they now trail by just three points.
Victory in their fixture against Reading on Friday night, less then 24 hours before the trip to The Valley, would see the Blades leapfrog Birmingham on goal difference.
O’Connor believes that now is the time for focus from Birmingham as they strive not just for promotion but for the Championship title as well.
“In the last six games we’ve been doing really well and we’ve been focused on the job in hand to pick up a few good results,” he said. “We’re six games unbeaten and if we can keep that going then I think we will win the league.”