6 September 2007
It has taken one decade, three London Premiership clubs and half a season's loan to get here, but at last Jamie O'Hara has arrived at the place he can call home.
As backgrounds go, few can have had more of a Millwall influence than the diminutive 20-year-old midfielder.
His grandfather Dave used to organise the Bermondsey Carnival in the days when Sam Wannamaker and Clive Dunn provided the entertainment.
His father Paul grew up on Rotherhithe's Silwood Estate and first met Jamie's future mother as an early teen at the Southwark Park bowling green during the same event in 1971. Paul is also a director at Seymour Valentine, one of the club's sponsors.
And virtually everyone in his life; from friends to brothers, uncles, cousins and parents, are Millwall fans.
When O'Hara is not on the pitch for his club he watches Millwall home and away. When he is neither viewing nor playing football he socialises with one of his best friends - who just happens to be Ben May's brother.
So why, oh why, has it taken so long for the player to line up in the blue of the Lions? Well, on this occasion it is not Millwall's fault. They were one of twelve clubs who wanted to utilise O'Hara's precocious talents after he led local Kent side Sutton Dynamos to cup final glory at the age of ten.
Andy Massey tried to recruit O'Hara, but there was stiff competition from the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal, Wimbledon and Chelsea, where he had been training for the past three years.
"I was at Chelsea but the travelling became a bit much," said O'Hara, whose family fled Bermondsey for South Darenth when he was four.
"I didn't want to move from home so I decided to go to Arsenal. At the time they were a big club and their facilities and coaching was more advanced.
"Millwall knew about me through the Bermondsey connection and it was a difficult decision because they had always been my team.
"But me and my dad thought it was best that Arsenal would be the best place to learn the game."
One of the attractions was that, at the time, Highbury was the grooming ground for a lot of English youngsters.
That has changed in the past decade, meaning that Tottenham seemed a better prospect for O'Hara when he turned sixteen and was looking for a professional deal.
He turned down a three-year deal at Arsenal to join their north London rivals for what is thought to have been as much as £125,000.
"I was at Arsenal and I thought that there was little chance of breaking into the team so I went to Tottenham and begin to get involved."
Though O'Hara was on the substitute's bench five times last term, his only first team experience came the season before, where he scored five goals in nineteen games on loan at Chesterfield.
And when Spurs said they wanted him to go out on loan again, Pat Holland, O'Hara's U19 manager at White Hart Lane, intervened and brought the 20-year-old to the Den.
"There were a few clubs who were interested but Millwall were the ones who really wanted me and that made the difference."
O'Hara knew enough about the club anyway, but still consulted Spurs midfielder Charlie Lee, his good friend who was on loan at Millwall last season, and another pal, Ryan Smith.
"I played with Ryan for five years at Arsenal," he revealed. "I have grown up with Ryan and we used to work really well together.
"He was very talented and highly thought of at Arsenal. We also used to play for England together.
"I spoke to him and he said Millwall was a really good club that was on the up and it swayed my decision."
O'Hara, who has been capped fifteen times for his country at U16, U17 and U18 levels, is left-footed but considers himself a centre midfielder.
He said: "I can play on the left but I consider myself more of a central midfielder.
"The problem with playing on the left is that you don't get the ball as much and I'd find myself going inside to get hold of it.
"It has been frustrating coming on in the first two games because we have been losing. But I will never hide. No matter what happens I will always want to get hold of the ball."
O'Hara's one month deal will be extended to January is he does well, yet that is in doubt after the player was sent off at Swansea on Tuesday night.
"Millwall fans are expecting a lot because it is a big club with a massive fan base. They expect to be higher than League One and I have known the club long enough to know what it is like.
"But the fans need to get behind the team because it will help us."
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