JOEY O’Brien admits he might not see first team football again until the New Year after a setback with his latest injury.

The unlucky Irish midfielder – who has not figured since the goal-less draw with Blackburn in October – was hoping to resume training this week but has been told by the Wanderers medical team he requires another two to three weeks of treatment on a torn thigh muscle.

Heartbreakingly, O’Brien sustained the injury on his first day back in training after a fortnight on the sidelines with a hamstring strain.

“It’s hard to take with the two coming so close together,” said the Dubliner. “They are saying now I should be looking at playing again at the back end of December.

“I thought I would be back in the squad by now but the first training session I had with the lads after my hamstring, my quad popped, and then out I go again. It has been a nightmare, really.”

O’Brien has endured a stop-start season thus far, playing the first six games before being dropped to the bench for the defeat at Manchester United.

He made three more substitute’s appearances before the first of his injuries and rues the fact he has not yet had the opportunity to win back his first team spot.

“It’s the way it has gone for me this season,” he shrugged. “I started the season in the team, then I was dropped, then I got injured in training – I have never had the chance to get myself back in there.

“If you are dropped, you tend to have the chance to train harder and show the manager that you are worth a place in the side. But because I got injured straight away, I have just had to sit and take it, even though it has been great to see the lads do well.”

But O’Brien has lived through his fair share of injury problems at the Reebok, missing virtually the whole of the 2006/7 season with knee ligament damage.

And that experience, says the 22-year-old, will help him emerge stronger on his return.

“I have been through worse things than this,” he said. “When you are sitting there knowing your next game won’t be for six months, then you really have problems.

“I’ll come back in a few weeks and get myself back on track, I’ve no doubt about that.”

And O’Brien says the incentive of a first team return is even greater in a small squad where competition for places may be concentrated, but no less fierce.

“Everyone plays their part,” he said. “The squad might be small, but that means you haven’t got five or six lads standing round doing nothing, not getting a sniff.

“You tend to find if there is an injury, you’re right in there. Everyone in the squad has that opportunity to play.”