Saddlers secure services of O'Connor...THE SADDLERS have completed the signing of former Derby County man, James O’Connor, on a one-year deal.
The 29 year-old, who hails from Birmingham, started his career in the youth ranks at Aston Villa where he emerged as a strong and dependable defender.
Helping Villa lift the FA Youth Cup in 2002, he went on to sign professional forms at Villa Park and gained his first taste of senior action with a loan switch to Port Vale in 2004/05, at a time when Dean Smith was part of The Valiants’ back-line.
Also serving AFC Bournemouth on loan, he eventually made a permanent switch to the south coast club where he became a regular in the team with his tough-tackling and committed style finding favour amongst The Cherries’ faithful.
Playing under Sean O’Driscoll and Richard O’Kelly, he was comfortable anywhere across the back-line.
He was sold to Doncaster Rovers in May 2006 and was soon joined by his former Bournemouth managerial duo as he settled in well at the club, helping them lift The Football League Trophy at the end of his first season and then promotion into the second-tier of English football the following year.
A reliable figure, he was named Player of the Season in 2009/10 and went on to make 242 senior appearances for the club in all competitions before joining Derby County for an undisclosed fee ahead of the 2012/13 season.
Once more proving to be a consistent and versatile figure during his early days at Pride Park, injuries were to halt his progress somewhat, but last term he spent time out on loan at Bristol City before being allowed to leave Pride Park during the summer.
“In James we have signed an extremely reliable and solid defender,” said manager, Dean Smith without hesitation. “He is someone that I played alongside for a time at Port Vale and who has worked with Richard O’Kelly for a number of years, so we know exactly the type of character he is and what he will bring to the club.
“He learned his trade at Aston Villa and is a fantastic professional who can play anywhere across the back four and will have a real positive presence around the place.
“There were a lot of teams interested in him when he left Derby County, but I am delighted that he has chosen to come here. It certainly is a big bonus for us and I look forward to working with him.”
O’Connor added: “I’m delighted to be here. I’m itching to get back into action and have worked extremely hard to be ready for the start of pre-season.
“I’ve got a really good vibe about this move; it feels right and I’m looking forward to working under a bright, young manager in Dean Smith and working once more with Richard O’Kelly, who I know from my time at AFC Bournemouth and Doncaster.
“I know the way this club wants to play and the philosophy it has and I totally buy into that. There were other clubs interested, but my mind was made up to come here as soon as I spoke to a few people at the club.
“Hopefully I can be part of helping Walsall build and make progress.”