Getting shirty | 

Cork's Anthony O'Connor follows Roy Keane's mantra ahead of Tottenham clash

"Some people have a different mentality and they might they can ask for a shirt if they are marking one of Tottenham's big names, but I just can't do that."
Anthony O'Connor won't be looking for a selfie with Harry Kane

Anthony O'Connor won't be looking for a selfie with Harry Kane

Kevin Palmer

ANTHONY O'Connor could come up against Tottenham's Harry Kane in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon - but don't even begin to suggest he has his eye on collecting the England captain's shirt at the end of the match.

Morecambe captain O'Connor is very much from the Roy Keane school of thought when it comes to such matters, with the no-nonsense Cork mentality running through both as they put business first and star gazing a long way down their list of priorities.

So much so that O'Connor has warned his Morecambe team-mates that there will be punishments handed out if any of them go looking for souvenirs and selfies from their big-name rivals.

"I said to the lads in the dressing room the other day that anyone who is going around sniffing for a shirt of one of the Spurs players will be fined," begins O'Connor, in an exclusive Sunday World interview.

"Some people have a different mentality and they might they can ask for a shirt if they are marking one of Tottenham's big names, but I just can't do that.

"It is a bad attitude to go into a game thinking about what shirt you might get at the end of it. That almost feels like you are admitting you are there for the day out.

"I'm looking at this game in a different way. Yes, I'm looking forward to playing at this great Tottenham stadium, but my message to all the players is this is just another game. Don't treat it any differently.

"The FA Cup throws up games like this and you have to try and enjoy them, but my attitude has always been I'll only enjoy it if we perform well and get a good result."

Harry Kane has rediscovered his goal-scoring touch (Adam Davy/PA)

Harry Kane has rediscovered his goal-scoring touch (Adam Davy/PA)

They could have been words muttered by his fellow Corkonian Keane and while O'Connor has not achieved anything like the success of his county's most famous soccer export, he believes his success in the game is equally noteworthy.

Having enjoyed a long career in includes that has included spells with Blackburn, Plymouth, Burton, Aberdeen and Bradford, O'Connor remains convinced he could have played at a higher level if a chance came his way.

Yet he admits the bright lights of the Premier League are a distant dream when you are in the lower reaches of the third tier of the English game.

"The money in football these days is ridiculous and I look at players on £400,000-a-week and question whether they are as good as their price tag and wages suggest," says O'Connor, who was a Liverpool fan in his youth.

"It feels like Irish players need to get promoted to have a chance to play in the Premier League and we've seen that with Matt Doherty and John Egan, who is a mate of mine.

"When clubs in the Premier League have the money to buy whoever they want in the world, it makes it hard for Irish lads to get their chance with the club clubs as I don't think we are on their radar too much.

"Man City, Liverpool and Man United can sign players for £100million and you need to be an extraordinary talent to come through and make it at those clubs now.

"Someone like Phil Foden at Manchester City shows that if you are a top player, you can still make it and the same with Caoimhín Kelleher at Liverpool, but that's no doubt it is very tough now."

O'Connor is convinced he could have played for a top tier club, yet he has no regrets over his career and suggests some players lose sight of what really matters in the game.

"I've always felt I had the ability to play at a higher level and had ambitions to get into the Premier League, but the break I needed has not come my way," he added.

"What I have done is play 40-50 games every year at whatever club I have been at and that has always been my motivation.

"You see some kids coming through academy set-ups now and they are getting paid £25,000-a-week and there is no doubt it can dilute their motivation. Too much too young is a term you hear a lot in football and it's true.

"When they are getting great money as a teenager, they have nothing to fight for, they don't need to earn their next contract. It's not always the players' fault because clubs can afford to pay huge wages just to get talented players into their club and they might never play a first team game.

"For some young players now, it's all about making as much money as possible, but I have always wanted to get to the end of my career and say I played 600 games in England.

"If you get to the end of your career and say you have a lot of money in the bank but you only played 150 matches, that would not be enough for me.

"You can have a great career in English football even if you are not playing for one of the top Premier League clubs and I think I've proved that over the last ten years."

Success can be measured on so many different scales and while O'Connor's moment in the brightest of spotlights may be brief at Tottenham, he can look back on his adventure in English football with real pride.


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