The 32-year-old midfielder played 133 games for the Reds between 2010 and 2014 after moving from Motherwell in his native Scotland. He moved on to Coventry City, Scunthorpe United, Shrewsbury Town, Ross County, Bradford City and now non-league Notts County but he has remained living in Barnsley, mostly in Hoyland before recently moving to Wombwell.
As well as playing for the Magpies this season, he has been coaching youth teams at Oakwell in evenings at the academy which is run by his former Barnsley team-mate Bobby Hassell. O’Brien told the Chronicle: “Everything has fallen into place for me in Barnsley. I still see myself playing for another few years but I have been coaching at Barnsley to get my hours in for my B Licence.
“I really enjoy it, the kids are great. I am thankful to Bobby and the others at the academy for helping me. I have worked with most of the age groups, it is just a case of who needs assistance. I am very fortunate that I am being allowed to go in and coach there. I don’t know if it will be my career after I stop playing. You are as only as good as your offers, but I have a good relationship with the coaching staff in the Barnsley academy and it’s my club. I would love to work there.”
O’Brien’s five-year-old son James has been born and bred in Barnsley. Jim said: “I have always had my house in Barnsley. “I had short spells away when I was at Coventry and Ross County but I was still coming back to Barnsley a lot. I think I’ll always be here. If I didn’t come to Barnsley, I wouldn’t have my son so, in my life, it’s given me everything really. I know a lot of people who are Barnsley fans and I have always kept up to date with what is going on there.”
O’Brien played four Championship seasons at Oakwell, including a final-day survival at Huddersfield Town in 2013 then a relegation the next season, after which he left. He said: “I always remember my goals, especially my first one against Leeds when we beat them 5-2. It was a tap-in but I always say I am deadly from a yard out. The biggest thing that stands out is the people I have met, at the club or supporters who I have met through living here. This is my home, it’s a big deal for me and it’s a big part of my life. I can’t speak highly enough of the town and the club.”