Some stern but wise words from Burnley manager Sean Dyche are spurring Aiden O’Neill on in his season-long loan spell in the A-League with Central Coast Mariners.
O’Neill, 20, signed for Central Coast on loan from the Clarets for the 2018-19 season, joining Mike Mulvey’s Mariners squad overhaul.
He has linked up with the Yellow and Navy on the hunt for experience and, importantly, wins in first team matches.
Those wins have yet to come so far for the Mariners and O’Neill with three games of the campaign gone; they have drawn two and lost one.
Brisbane-born O’Neill’s short-term return to Australia is his third loan move away from Turf Moor. He has also been shipped out to Fleetwood Town and Oldham Athletic.
Speaking on Thursday’s Daily Football Show, the 20-year-old lifted the lid on just how tough it is to break into Burnley’s first team.
O’Neill revealed coach Dyche has told him he must “earn the right and earn the respect” in order to climb the pecking order.
“Cut-throat hits it on the head … it (football) is a huge business over there and there’s someone biting at your heels to take your position,” O’Neill said.
“As a youngster, I’ve got to push one or two players out and when they’ve been playing in the Premier League for two seasons now, that’s not easy.
“They’ve not just gone straight into the Premier League either, they’ve been playing League One, Championship.
“They’ve earned that reputation and earned that right to be playing week in week out in the Premier League especially at Burnley.
“You’ve got to go out and gain experience. That’s one thing the gaffer told me: ‘you’ve got to earn the right to be where these guys are, you’re not just going to walk in here and play, you’ve got to earn the right, earn the respect and then come in and show me I’m ready to play in the Premier League’.”
Life back in Australia has started well enough for O’Neill at an individual level, starting two of the Mariners’ three matches.
He was introduced off the bench in their opening game against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
For O’Neill, heading out on loan to the Mariners is not just about building experience. It is about being exposed to the make or break nature of first team football, away from youth leagues.
Intriguingly, O’Neill said, chasing three points is not always seen as the be-all and end-all in England’s developmental leagues.
“When it’s a big business, you’ve got to win games and you can’t teach players to win games, it’s game management and learning to get three points,” the central-midfielder added.
“When you’re playing academy football, it’s completely different to first team football because if you lose, you developed well, or you kept the ball well.
“But if you don’t win, it doesn’t mean anything. That’s one thing in England where it’s tough for the under-23s.
“They play a lot for development and not for winning games and then to make that switch is quite difficult over there.
“That’s why you see a lot of the boys from United, Arsenal and Chelsea go on loan to League Two and League One and gain experience and really get thrown in the deep end where teams are getting relegated.
“They’ve got to go there and try to make them win and that’s when you realise you’ve got to win three points.”
Though they have lost only one game from their opening three – a 3-0 loss against Adelaide United last weekend – the Mariners are still hunting their first win of the season.
They will travel to Melbourne where they are tasked with Victory, who claimed their first win of the campaign against Newcastle Jets on Saturday.