O'Neil on Neto, Ait-Nouri, Hwang, Cunha, Dawson and Jonny

Gary O’Neil has provided an injury update ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with West Ham United, which he admits has come too soon for Pedro Neto to return to the side.

The Portuguese winger has been out since picking up a hamstring injury against Newcastle United at Molineux in late October, but O’Neil is hopeful Neto will be back available for the visit of Chelsea on Christmas Eve, while confirming Rayan Ait-Nouri is back in contention following his ankle injury and Mario Lemina has recovered from a tight hamstring which forced him off during the draw with Nottingham Forest last weekend.

On Ait-Nouri, Neto and Lemina injuries

“Rayan should be back because he came through training well, so will be available, the rest of the lads are all ok. Nothing from the last game, Mario recovered ok from his hamstring, so everyone else is fine.

“Pedro's not training with the group just yet, so the West Ham game he won’t be involved in. But we’re really hopeful he’ll be in the squad for the Chelsea game, all being well. If he isn’t in the matchday squad for Chelsea, it doesn’t mean there’s been a setback, it just means he hasn’t been able to tick off all the things.

“He’s really close, but with the nature of the injury, being close is still not enough. We need to make sure that he’s right, but if everything goes perfectly between now and then, I am hopeful that he will be seen before Christmas, that doesn’t mean that he necessary will, but if all goes to plan then we will have Pedro available for the Chelsea game.”

On Hwang’s improvement

“If he continues his work, his understanding, and he continues to be as clinical as he has, then there’s no reason that he can’t [reach 15/20 goals regularly]. The Premier League is tough, but it definitely can take signings from abroad a while to acclimatise.

“The speed of it is different to most leagues you watch on the TV, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, but there does seem to be a frenetic nature to the game, and that can take some adapting to. Physically, it’s one of the most powerful leagues in the world now, I’d guess the most powerful in terms of speed and the quality of athlete we have in the Premier League which is superior to other leagues, so it can take some time to adapt to.

“I think of Santi [Bueno], who has worked so hard and has come on so much since he joined us. He did well in his first start against Fulham and he’s come on a real good amount in the three months that he’s been here and sometimes it does take a while to get an understanding with what it takes.”

On Cunha’s development

“He is finding his way, but he needs to keep going. I’m delighted with how well he’s done, but it’s still a very short period of time, so of course it’s fantastic, five games, five goal involvements, and some real good performances this season, but the challenge to Matheus, as it is to all good footballers, is can he keep it going for longer spells.

“’It’s not a purple patch, this is me and this is what I do.’ That’s the challenge to him and that’s the challenge to our group as well, and hopefully we can keep him performing at that high a level.

“There’s a lot of improvement in him, just in the understanding of the game and understanding things better, not that he’s bad at that, but he has real individual ability where he can do things and change things on his own.

“We’re trying to improve his understanding of how important he is to the team in certain situations and things that he needs to do that will definitely help him, and to be fair he’s taking it on board, he’s trying to improve every day, and I’m glad he’s got rewards from how we wanted him to do things. I’m pleased for him that he’s adapted things in his game and he’s started to benefit with goals and assists, and he’s getting recognition to go with the undeniable quality he has.”

On Dawson’s dependability

“This is not a comment on what West Ham have or haven’t done with Craig Dawson, but more around us and how pleased I am that he’s here. He’s just one of those solid ones who you know you can just write his name down and he’s going to get himself to the weekend in a good state and he’s going to come through the game giving all he can.

“He’s real low maintenance, with real high outputs, so is one as a manager who is really important to us and what we do. I’m delighted with how well he’s done, he’s incredibly important to me and to the club, and hopefully we can keep him going at this level for as long as possible.”

On Jonny’s future at Wolves

“The statement from the club told you everything. At the moment, he’s going to stay out of our group until January, and then we will see where everything is. There’s no real update or further information I can add to that, except that Jonny will continue to work and play with the under-21s until then.

“Jonny has had a fantastic time at this football club and that can still continue. Somebody making a mistake doesn’t – and definitely shouldn’t – define what you’ve been to a football club. I’ve made a million mistakes, we all have, and I’m sure Jonny will have his own thoughts on the situation, but you make a mistake, you deal with the mistake, and everybody moves on, and that’s where we are. It’s been dealt with.

“Jonny’s been a fantastic player for the football club, he’s been involved in some incredible moments here, some fantastic seasons, and there are things that happen in football that are dealt with and move on. We are where we are now, we will see what happens and will see what happens in the future.”