John O’Shea will return to Bournemouth tomorrow eternally grateful for the day Alex Ferguson sent him there to toughen him up for the glittering career ahead of him.
The then 18-year-old Manchester United defender was dispatched to Dean Court on a three-month loan deal in 2000 at the start of a near 12-year spell at Old Trafford, which saw him win the Champions League, five league titles and both the FA Cup and League Cup. Tomorrrow, the now Sunderland captain will return to face his former club in the Premier League.
The Irish international said:
“I played a good few games under Mel Machin, who was the manager at Bournemouth and Sean O’Driscoll was the coach, the assistant manager at Liverpool now.
“They wanted to play football the right way, but also they made me understand how important it was playing for points .”
Almost 16 years on, O’Shea will lock horns with the Cherries, playing top-flight football for the first time in their history. He admits that was not a scenario he envisaged during his time at the club.
He said: “Honestly if you had asked me at the time, no. Obviously teams can develop, but at that time in terms of the stadium, the facilities around the place, you obviously wouldn’t have said that was a Premier League facility.
“But huge credit must go to the staff and fans at the club at the time when they went through a couple of dodgy spells where it looked like they could have even folded.
“But they dug deep and they got together, and obviously Eddie Howe came back at a crucial stage for them and they started to get on a roll, and investors saw it as a good opportunity too and they got on board and they were able to go from strength to strength.”
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