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Bolton starlet O’Brien keeps feet on ground

By Ken Gaunt
ROOKIE defender Joey O’Brien insists there is no chance of him getting big-headed after a run of games for high-flying Bolton.

The 19-year-old knows he will get it in the neck from the folks back home in Ireland if ever that was to occur.

"It is not difficult to keep my feet on the ground. My family say I am just a little fellow from Dublin," quipped the 6ft full-back.

O’Brien has been a revelation for Bolton since switching from midfield to cover for the absence of Nicky Hunt through injury.

Like Hunt and Bolton club captain Kevin Nolan, he has graduated from the club’s vibrant youth team programme.

O’Brien’s progress comes at a wonderful time for Bolton, who are enjoying European competition for the first time in their history.

He is set to make his 12th appearance for the first team today against Aston Villa after an impressive display in the defeat of Arsenal.

"That has to be the highlight so far," said O’Brien, who had a spell on loan with Sheffield Wednesday last season, which seems to have been the making of him.

But he admitted: "I did not expect things to happen so quickly for me at Bolton and to get into the side so early in the season.

"To be honest I have not really had time to think about settling in and that has probably been a good thing.

"We’ve had so many games and that has helped me in a way.

"The team are doing well and hopefully I can stay in and keep the shirt, although I know Nicky is a good player and will put me under pressure.

"I don’t care where I am playing, whether it is right-back or midfield, just as long as I am in the team."

Manager Sam Allardyce looks set to name an unchanged team against David O’Leary’s Aston Villa when they aim to keep the pressure up on the Premiership’s top teams.

Allardyce’s side have lost only once in the league at the Reebok Stadium and conceded just one goal there.