Garry O’Connor ends exile with Morton deal

GARRY O’Connor insists he will prove that his football career is not finished after agreeing a deal with Greenock Morton until the end of the season.

Former Hibernian striker Garry O'Connor was unveiled by Morton today. Picture: SNS
Former Hibernian striker Garry O'Connor was unveiled by Morton today. Picture: SNS

The 30-year-old striker was last night still awaiting international clearance, having not kicked a ball since leaving Russian side Tom Tomsk more than a year ago. But Kenny Shiels’ Morton, currently nine points adrift at the foot of the SPFL Championship, hope to give O’Connor his debut on Saturday when they take on Raith Rovers at Cappielow.

O’Connor has had two spells at Hibernian and also played for Lokomotiv Moscow, Birmingham and Barnsley. The Edinburgh-born forward, who has 16 Scotland caps to his name, started his career at Easter Road and was a hot property back in 2006 when he made a £1.6 million move to Moscow.

But his stock has been falling ever since his flit to Russia and, off the field, he’s not had his troubles to seek. O’Connor has twice been fined for cocaine possession in recent years and has another court date set for March after he was charged in October with driving while under the influence of drugs or drink.

O’Connor, though, believes signing for Morton is exactly the springboard his career needs. “It has probably been personal reasons why I’ve been out the game for so long, but they’ve cleared up now and I’m happy to be here,” said O’Connor yesterday. “It’s great to be back in football again and hopefully I can kick on and prove to people that I’m not finished.

“I’ve not been up to a lot. I’ve obviously been in Russia but that didn’t work out and I cancelled my contract last January. I have just been on some holidays and things like that and taken some time out of the game. I’ve looked for some clubs but the right one has not been there.

“I spoke to Kenny and this came up. It’s a challenge for me to try and get Morton out the position they’re in, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Having not played for a club in more than 12 months, O’Connor concedes that he is not yet match fit but is sure it won’t take him long to get up to speed.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 per cent fit but I’m not far off,” he added. “I would say about 85 or 90 per cent at the moment but if I get games after games then it will not be long in coming.”

Shiels, who replaced Allan Moore at Cappielow last month, has rejected suggestions that taking on O’Connor is a risk.

“No, I think I can help Garry,” explained the former Kilmarnock manager. “Certainly, if we can get him in and get him

scoring goals then it will be good for his future. He’s only 30 and he has got a great ability to play that role as a single striker. He’s mobile and he holds it in, and he’s got all the attributes.”

Shiels has brought in four other players in the past few days, with David Robertson, Jamie McCormack, Darren Cole and Barrie McKay joining O’Connor at the Championship strugglers.

Robertson, a 27-year-old midfielder, was this week released by St Johnstone, while 21-year-old defender McCormack had been let go by Wigan Athletic. Former Rangers defender Cole joined late last week as a free agent while McKay, a striker, also moves from Ibrox but just as a loan signing.

“They will make an impact,” added Shiels, whose side lost 2-0 at Dumbarton at the weekend. “But it may take a bit of time because four of them have had very little football in the past year.”

Meanwhile, Dundee could be set to make a swoop for former Hearts striker Christian Nade.

The 29-year-old free agent is currently training with the Championship leaders after a recent spell with East Fife.

The Dark Blues are without injured forward Craig Beattie until around March so would welcome some reinforcement up front. Nade played for Hearts between 2007 and 2010.