Hammers’ Nouble returns on loan to Barnsley

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FRANK Nouble has joined Barnsley on loan from West Ham United for the second time in his short career.

The striker, who played four games for the Tykes last season, is approaching the end of his contract at West Ham and looking to secure his future.

Barnsley manager Keith Hill, who also wants to strengthen his defensive options, said: “This is a window of opportunity for him and us – if he does the business on the pitch. He has been on the loan merry-go-round but really needs to focus now and find a footballing home.”

A former England Under-19 international, Nouble, now 20, scored six goals in 14 appearances for Gillingham this season.

He also played on loan for Swansea City and Charlton Athletic last season and scored his first goal for West Ham in a Championship game against Derby County three months ago.

His last spell at Oakwell was a relative disappointment but Hill, who was not in charge at that time, believes he can do better second time around.

“When he was here before, his form was not too great and he didn’t play too much football,” said Hill. “The same could probably be said of Jay Rodriguez who (was on loan) but is now one of the outstanding players in the Championship.

“He’s still only 20 and needs an opportunity – and not just for 20 minutes as a substitute. He needs to get some real foundation with respect to games. It’s his opportunity but he’s got to earn that and earn the respect of the players. I am sure he will do that.”

Nouble’s initial month with the Tykes starts with tomorrow’s trip to Championship leaders Southampton.

Jim O’Brien, meanwhile, may need to sit out the rest of the season due to hip and groin problems.

The former Celtic and Motherwell winger, 24, has missed the last three games and started only once since Boxing Day. “Jim is a doubt for next season, never mind this season,” said Hill. “He’s seeing a specialist and it is about some real hardcore rehabilitation.

“If we get a negative reaction to it, there might have to be another course of intensive treatment. It’s a consequence of time and physical impact. I am not ruling him out (for the season) but he’s someone who can’t impact at this moment in time so I’m not ruling him in. If you lose your best players in League One or Two, you can paper over the cracks,” he added. “But you definitely can’t in the Championship.”