Scouting report: Michael O'Connor (Scunthorpe United)
The Seventy Two is delighted to announce that Jamie Sanderson, the editor of the superb Young Guns site focusing on Arsenal’s youth setup, will be providing occasional scouting reports on up-and-coming Football League players. Jamie’s first outline is of a 23-year-old midfielder who has followed the well-trodden path from Dario Gradi’s tutelage to international recognition.
Alan Knill set out a clear mandate in his opening days as Scunthorpe United’s new manager. He wants The Iron to return to their famed brand of attacking and stylish football. However, one of Knill’s best assets is a defensive minded player: Michael O’Connor.
The 23-year-old is another product of Crewe’s impressive academy system. A tough, aggressive and dogged midfielder, Scunthorpe gambled on concerns over his attitude and discipline to seal a deal in July 2009. Now, poised for a return to League One, O’Connor is attracting interest from a number of the Championship’s leading lights.
The Northern Ireland international added to his growing reputation by scoring a wonder goal against Queen’s Park Rangers last week, as United pulled off a notable victory against the league leaders. It kept alive Scunthorpe’s faint hopes of avoiding the drop, but with a number of difficult fixtures left, the fans already sense an air of inevitability that their team will be playing in the third tier of English football once more.
Knill knows that good football has taken Scunthorpe out of that division before, but grit and determination are increasingly important qualities. O’Connor boasts both of those, but the skill for Knill is directing the passion and drive his midfield enforcer has away from over zealous tackles and scuffles, and into something more positive.
On his day, O’Connor can impose himself on any game, and his ability to win the ball back and surge from midfield could make him the lynchpin for the attacking model Knill wants to create.
Many predict a summer clearout of the Scunthorpe squad, but working with some of the rough gems like O’Connor, Knill can not only deliver his mandate, but bring back the feelgood feeling to Glanford Park.