HE'S playing with the big boys as part of an in-form Bohemians side, but Eoin Wearen says that he feels like a kid again as he plays the best football of his life.
It's been a frustrating few years in the career of the Glasnevin lad who was unable to make the grade in a five-year spell at West Ham United. But with three goals in his last three appearances for a Bohs side who have turned the corner from early season relegation form (one win in 13) with a six-game unbeaten run, it's all smiles for Wearen right now, the club's third-top scorer even though he only started his first league game last month.
A one-time team-mate of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick at schoolboy level, Wearen still has ambitions of making it in England and his form in recent weeks for Bohs has earned the attention of scouts and managers who may have written him off. "It's a big aim of mine to go back to England and prove I can make it over there. It didn't happen for me before for various reasons but I know my ability, I know what I can do," says Wearen.
"I probably do have a point to prove. I was in England for the best part of five years, I didn't play much overall and didn't get to play for West Ham but my confidence is so high now I feel I can achieve a lot more."
He joined Bohs in April after a few months of being without a club - Wearen trained with Ipswich but didn't land a contract - and boss Owen Heary saw the former U19 cap as a defender. But recent games have seen Wearen make an impact in midfield, yielding a goals in successive games against Limerick (2-1), St Pats (1-1) and Cork City (2-0), a run which saw Bohs - briefly - move out of the bottom six for the first time this season.
"It's brilliant playing in that role, I am getting the attention and the headlines because of the goals I scored but I can only score if I get good service, and I have Roberto Lopes doing all the hard work, the ugly stuff, beside me so I can try an attack," he says.
"Back when I started out I was at attacking midfielder, as a schoolboy I just loved getting on the ball and bombing forward. At St Kevin's Boys they had me and Jeff Hendrick in central midfield and we'd get at least 15 goals a season each, from midfield. The way I am playing now, with a licence to get forward and a real sense of confidence, it's like I am 13 or 14 again and just enjoying my football.
"It's also down to a lot of hard work, we do our bit in training but I am working on my own few bits as well to keep my fitness up, it's all about focus. I know what I want to do in my career and I won't get distracted.
"I have heard a few bits and pieces about people coming to see the games and watching me, and who knows what could happen in August before the window closes in England, but I am not listening to any of that, I am keeping my mind on the games and doing well for Bohs," added Wearen, who says he shelved a potential GAA career with Dublin to focus on soccer, having impressed with Scoil Uí Chonaill as well as at schools level at Ard Scoil Rís.
"When I was younger, before I went to England, there was a chance I might have been on the Dublin panel, but I couldn't commit the time. I was focusing on football with St Kevin's and the DDSL. To pull on the Dublin shirt is one of the best things you can do, I had to make a decision at the time but who knows what'll happen down the road."
When he made his Bohs debut, as a sub against Derry City in April, the side were struggling. That Derry game in the middle of a run of nine games without a win, but recent form has raised spirits around Dalymount Park, Heary's side moving up the league table and they're also involved in two cup competitions.
"We have Shamrock Rovers in the EA Sports Cup semi-final on Monday and we'd love to get into the final, win a trophy, and we are in the FAI Cup as well," says Wearen. "But we're looking at the league as well, we are aiming for the top five and the Setanta Cup, the way we are playing now we can beat anyone."