DAVID Flitcroft hopes he has unearthed another defensive gem in non-league starlet Keil O’Brien.
The Shakers boss snapped up the highly-rated 6ft 4ins centre-half from Chorley last week, and has wasted no time in letting the 20-year-old know the high standards expected of him now that he has stepped into the professional ranks at the JD Stadium.
Flitcroft played a part in developing the careers of two of English football’s brightest young talents in West Brom’s Craig Dawson and Everton’s John Stones.
And he has challenged O’Brien to show the same hunger as his two former charges in order to make a name for himself in League Two.
Speaking to The Bury Times, Flitcroft was encouraged by what he had seen of the youngster so far.
“We watched him five or six times at the end of last season in some of Chorley’s bigger games,” he said. “He came through the ranks at Manchester United, he knows how to handle the ball and now we need to see if he can develop.
“If he has got 50 per cent as much hunger and determination as someone like Craig Dawson, then he has got every chance to succeed.
“I’ll know that within five or six weeks of working with him in pre-season. Sometimes when you give players a chance, you can see in their eyes if they really want it.
“Dawson and Stones had this insatiable appetite to develop but it won’t be until I have worked with Keil on a day-to-day basis that I will know if he has got the same ingredients.”
O’Brien also had spells at Radcliffe Borough and Northwich Victoria before helping Chorley – managed by Flitcroft’s brother Garry – to the Evo-Stik Premier title last season.
The Shakers return to full training duties over the next few days after doing some fitness testing at Bolton University earlier this week.
Flitcroft is delighted by the levels of professionalism shown by his players over the summer.
“They have returned in really good shape,” he said. “We have got experienced players in our squad. Some really good athletes, and they know that as footballers you have to sacrifice to have a good career.
“Nothing pleases you more as a coach than to see them come back ready and raring to go.
“I ask a lot of my players and make no excuses for it. We need to be fit and dynamic to start this season off well because they are the standards we are setting at this football club now.”
Flitcroft is happy with the blend he currently has in the squad but admits he is still on the lookout for “two or three” players before the start of the League Two season.
“When players get back from holidays and are itching to get into pre-season, we hope to be in the front of the queue for a couple,” he added.