Tonbridge resident O'Brien "gutted" to be leaving Hamlet

Tuesday 04th April 2006

Alex O'Brien says if he gets promotion to the Ryman League Premier Division, it won't be with "his" club.

The midfielder left Dulwich Hamlet last week for Ryman Division One promotion-contenders Tonbridge Angels after 105 appearances for the Pink 'n' Blues.

O'Brien, 29, had become yet another victim of new manager Wayne Burnett's axe, becoming the latest Hamlet stalwart to be shown the door as the club looks to start afresh for the future.

Whilst O'Brien had said he hoped to be part of that future with the club he loves, he accepted Burnett's decision with a heavy heart.

O'Brien told "If I go up with Tonbridge I won't be going up with my club, but another club. My club is Dulwich."

He added: "I spoke with Wayne on Monday and he said the budget was being cut for next season.

"That was his reason, and I have to respect that - but it does rankle that he didn't ask me if I'd take a pay cut.

"But I hold no grudges against him, because I have a lot of time for him on and off the pitch and he clearly is doing things his way and has made some big decisions."

But that doesn't mean O'Brien is any less happy about having to say goodbye to a club he skippered to London Senior Cup glory in 2004.

"I have to be honest, I am gutted," he said. "I went into the club and met chairman Martin Eede, who brought me to Dulwich.

"I had to sign a release form and it happened in near silence, because it was so emotional.

"It was all a bit of a blur as I walked out of the door, thinking 'that's the last time I do that'.

"And since it happened I have had a lot of current and former teammates phoning and texting me and it's really touched a nerve. I have been pretty upset."

But O'Brien didn't have long to sit about and think things through, as within a day he was playing for his new club against Whyteleafe the following night.

"A few clubs came in for me, but living in Tonbridge, that was the obvious choice for me," he said.

"The manager Tony Dolby said he was desperate for players of my type, but right now my head is still in a daze at what's happened."

O'Brien had only just played a starring role in Hamlet's fourth consecutive league victory at the weekend as they beat Banstead Athletic 3-1 at Champion Hill.

"A lot of the lads said I had played well," he said.

"But I didn't take it to heart because I knew that even if you play well under Burnett, there's no guarantee that you'll stay in the side.

"As it was, I didn't stay in the club, let alone the side, and that's hard to take right now."