KEIL O’Brien packed up the hurdles, bean bags and Hula Hoops and looked forward to his first day as a professional footballer.
When The Bury Times caught up with the Shakers’ new signing, he had just finished his last-ever shift as a sports coach at St John’s Primary School in Longsight – and it just happened to be sports day.
Fresh from the action the 20-year-old is now hoping to make a fast start for David Flitcroft at the JD Stadium. But the youngster isn’t jumping the gun either – and fully recognises the work he has in store to make a name for himself in the paid ranks.
“It’s a dream really,” said the young defender, signed from Chorley. “It’ll be great to have someone putting the cones out for me for a change.
“I’ve played non-league for a while and to be stood here looking forward to playing professionally for Bury isn’t pressure, it’s excitement.
“You look at the players in that squad, some have played in the Championship, and that is the calibre of footballer I am going to be working with every day. How can you not look forward to that?”
Denton-based O’Brien is no complete stranger to the professional set-up, having spent three years with Manchester United as a teenager.
He opted to leave after seeing too many players fall by the wayside and take the less-travelled route, signing for Northwich Vics then moving through a short spell at Radcliffe Borough to Mossley and finally, Victory Park where he was nurtured by Magpies boss Garry Flitcroft.
“Working in a job and playing part-time makes you appreciate all this more,” he said.
“When I left Manchester United I told my mum and dad that I was going to be a professional footballer some day. Now I have been given that chance, I won’t forget what people like Garry Flitcroft and Matt Jansen did for me at Chorley. They taught me so much.
“I always think of Chorley as a professional club in everything but name. It was a really good set-up. But I am looking forward to that next step now.”
David Flitcroft has already worked magic on young defenders such as John Stones and Craig Dawson – and has already laid down a challenge to O’Brien to follow their path up the league.
“When I met the manager he was really knowledgeable. He told me what made players like Craig Dawson get to the top of the game and it was nice that he thought I could get there too with a lot of hard work.
“You see what he did at Barnsley a couple of years ago and then with Bury last season, people have a lot of respect for him in the game.
“Now it’s up to me to show him he made the right choice in bringing me to the club.”