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john o'shea - young gun
John O'Shea

"He gives everybody advice! But it’s good advice and he’s definitely helped me out a lot. It’s great to have him, being Irish and being captain, it’s helped me and will continue to help me. He’s been Ireland’s best-ever player – not a bad role model to have! It’s a pleasure to be playing with him." - John O'shea on Roy Keane


John signed professional terms with United in August 1998 and made his first team debut just over a year later, away to Aston Villa in a Worthington Cup defeat.

After making twenty appearances and scoring two goals for the Reserves over the 1998/99 and 1999/2000 seasons, John joined Second Division Bournemouth on loan in January 2000, making his League debut for the Cherries against Colchester United.

Some assured displays earned John rave reviews on the south coast, with Bournemouth manager Mel Machin saying, "I thought John O'Shea was fantastic for us considering that he is still only eighteen. He has got a good future and can play on both sides of the defence."

After ten starts and one goal, against Millwall, O'Shea returned to Old Trafford in March 2000, determined to break into the first team. Despite two more appearances in the Worthington Cup, away at Watford and Sunderland, it didn't quite happen for the big man, so instead he embarked on another loan spell in season 2000/01.

This time he followed in the footsteps of Luke Chadwick, Danny Higginbotham and Ronnie Wallwork by joining Royal Antwerp. Although he was first choice central defender for United's partner club in Belgium, he still found time to play international football for the Republic at Under-21 level.

John stepped up to earn his first senior cap on 15 August 2001, when he came on as an 84th minute substitute at home to Croatia. Unfortunately, the debut ended in disappointment when John gave away a penalty in injury time, enabling the visitors to make the score 2-2.

John really made his mark on the United first team in the 2002/03 season, proving his versatility by playing at left-back, right-back, centre-back and central midfield during the Reds' successful Premiership campaign. His forays down the flanks - always accompanied by nut-megs on opponents - saw the birth of a new fans' chant - "When Johnny goes running down the wing, O'Shea, O'Shea."

John ended up with 32 Premiership appearances in 2002/03, at the end of which he picked up the first medal of his senior Reds career.



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