John-Joe still oozes rock-star swagger following year out

THE rock-star swagger still oozes from John-Joe O’Toole.

The 22-year-old’s mop of wavy hair, aggressive playing style and Liam Gallagher-esque saunter means he’s always looked like he belongs more on a stage than a football pitch.

It therefore comes as no surprise as to the alternative career choices that were going through the enigmatic midfielder’s mind during nearly a year out from the game.

“I’d probably be in a band right now, touring the world and selling millions of records to everyone and s******g loads of birds,” he said, when asked what he’d have done if hadn’t become a footballer.

Before pausing and adding, with a twinkle in his eye, “But I’ll take this.”

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Saturday was the London-born, Irish descendant’s first start for Colchester almost a year to the day after he injured cruciate knee ligaments at Charlton.

The box-to-box player, who rose to prominence as a teenager under Aidy Boothroyd at Watford and was tipped for a move to the Premier League early in his career, isn’t the type to ease himself back in though and he was soon smashing into some trademark tackles.

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“You can’t mess around can you!?” he smiled. “That’s how I like it, I just wanted to get stuck in.

“At one point I thought the gaffer might bring me off, I was hanging like, but it was brilliant to get the 90.”

For all the bravado though he was humble enough to admit afterwards that his long lay-off has made him appreciate being a professional footballer.

The fact that he even gave a post-match interview was testament to that, the midfielder – quite shy by all accounts considering his persona – having previously dodged journalists at every opportunity.

“Fifteen, twenty years ago that could have been a career ender for me so when you think like that it does make you assess your life,” said O’Toole, who says he filled his time out of the game by ‘going to a few gigs and playing some pool’.

“I’ve never known anything else than being a footballer, so having it taken away now makes me even more hungrier.

“There’s been a few days where you wonder whether it will ever come, so I’m just buzzing to be back.”

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