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West Ham recruit O'Neil prepared for relegation fight

New West Ham signing Gary O'Neil is under no illusions he has swapped struggling English Championship outfit Middlesbrough for a relegation scrap in the top flight with the Hammers. The 27-year-old midfielder completed his move on Tuesday as a replacement for Valon Behrami, who is on the verge of a switch to Fiorentina.

O'Neil signed a two and a half year contract after an undisclosed fee was agreed.

The player has been there before. He helped Portsmouth escape the drop with a dramatic late-season charge in 2006 but then two years ago he experienced the pain of relegation with Middlesbrough.

"I know what both sides feel like and I know what side I want to be on come May," O'Neil said.

"At Pompey we were cut adrift in a much worse situation than West Ham now and we managed to turn it around.

"We got a bit of momentum and then a string of results and managed to pull off one of the greatest escapes in the Premier League.

"If I came here and the squad looked a little bit small or didn't have enough quality you'd be worried.

"The only worrying thing is the position they are in at the moment. I don't think it's a reflection of the quality they've got.

"We are definitely good enough to stay up. Hopefully I can impose myself on the team and play as much as I can and repay the faith the club has shown in me.

"There's a long way to go and it's so tight down there. If we put a run together I'm sure we'll climb out.

"West Ham had a decent spell over Christmas and picked up some results. I saw the game against Fulham when they played well and got a good result.

"Hopefully things can continue in that trend and we can pull away from the relegation zone."

"The deal (for Behrami to Fiorentina) is nearly done. I think everything will be OK. It is just formalities and of course money," said boss Avram Grant.

"O'Neil is a good player, he is experienced, he has played in the Premier League.

"He is very energetic and clever. I am sure he will be very good for us. I am happy he can help us tomorrow."

 It's all kicking off again! Click here for the No1 coverage of West Ham United's winter market transfer news.

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Dave Williams

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