Jonathan Hogg has been Huddersfield Town’s heartbeat for a good few years. A block of Teesside granite hewn from the Eston Hills who sets the example for others to follow on the pitch and does not suffer fools gladly.
Huddersfield’s enforcer is the sort of individual who can be trusted to stand up and be counted amid difficult times. Town are experiencing such a moment right now and Hogg is not the sort to go hiding.
Overcoming adversity goes with the territory for the Middlesbrough-born player. He was rejected by home-town club Boro for being too small as a youngster and ruptured knee ligaments in his time as a young professional at Aston Villa, for instance.
After getting knocked down, he promptly got back up again.
He might have turned 32 in December, but Hogg’s importance to the cause is such that he recently signed a new contract keeping him at the club until the summer of 2023 with the option of an additional year.
It is good news for Town and also for O’Brien, even if it means he will continue to get earache from Hogg, who is as demanding on the pitch as he is easy going off it.
On the influence of Hogg, O’Brien told The Yorkshire Post: “He has been massive. He is a great guy and footballer and he has had a fantastic career.
“For me, it is great to be training with him every day and in and around him on the training ground. We have a good connection with each other on and off the pitch.
“To see how his career has been and for him to sign a new contract is a massive thing and I can learn more from him.
“On the pitch, he is probably one of the worst people to play with because of how angry he gets.
“But he is just demanding the best out of every player. But as soon as he is off the pitch, he is one of the nicest people you will meet. He is the perfect personality to have as a footballer.”
Just as Hogg shows tough love to O’Brien on the pitch, so the demands of head coach Carlos Corberan are getting more out of the 22-year-old on a daily basis.
Corberan’s predecessor Danny Cowley spoke in glowing terms about O’Brien’s physical capabilities last term in terms of his GPS player-tracking statistics and he is producing some head-turning data again this season.
Forced to play catch-up after missing some valuable time at the start of Corberan’s era due to a quad injury, O’Brien believes that he is getting back to his best, despite suggestions from some supporters that he has not hit the regular levels of last season.
He said: “Personally, it is a different game (under Corboran). But when you set high standards for yourself, there is that expectation for you and people inside the club to carry that on.
“Personally, maybe the injury did not help me to hit the ground running at the start of the season.
“But since I have been back, I feel like I have been back to my best in the last couple of games and I feel like I have been more of an attacking threat this season.
“This season, there is a lot more focus on running statistics and we see it after every game and recently I have been hitting over 1,500 Z5 and Z6 (high-intensity) metres in every game which Carlos says he has never seen since has started coaching.
“Personally, I want to be hitting more and more each game.”
Given O’Brien’s rise, it is still easy to forget that this is only his second full season at Championship level and he has travelled a long way fast.
In this social media age where people can be fickle, O’Brien has also learned to value the input of those close to him as opposed to changeable online opinion. It is a wise philosophy.
O’Brien, who eschews social media these days, said: “Probably last year, I would still look back to see how the fans (comments) were going.
“But you have just got to put it on yourself and think about whatever you think and the people around you. The club and your family are the most important.”
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