DEVELOPMENT squad chief Michael Jolley believes teenage midfielder Aiden O’Neill can act as a ‘flag bearer’ for the rest of Burnley’s young guns after making his first team breakthrough this season.

The 18-year-old Aussie spent all of pre-season with Sean Dyche’s first team and he has twice come off the bench in the Premier League this season, against Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as starting the League Cup defeat to Accrington.


O’Neill, who only turned 18 in July, was back with his contemporaries on Monday as the Under-23s beat Watford 2-0 to qualify for the Premier League Cup group stage, and he gave those present at Turf Moor another tantalising glimpse of his talent with an assured all-round display.

Jolley is hoping O’Neill’s step forward this summer can act as an inspiration to the rest of the youngsters at Gawthorpe.

“It’s been a little while since we’ve had a flag bearer for the young players so we’re really pleased he’s pushing through now,” Jolley said.

“Other than getting on the pitch he’s not really achieved anything yet so we’ve got to keep his feet on the ground, but he will do that himself.

“It’s a case of the other young men seeing him succeeding and following in his footsteps.”

O’Neill joined the Clarets in 2014 from Brisbane Athletic but there was a delay in receiving international clearance, which meant while he was ineligible for Youth Alliance games for the Under-18s he could play for the development squad in their friendly fixtures throughout the season.

Jolley worked closely with the young Australian during his development and could see the talent he possesses from his first day at Gawthorpe, but he was also full of praise for his approach to his progression through the ranks.

He said “He’s always been talented but the thing that has made him stand out is his hard work and his attitude to the way he develops, he’s a terrific young man, very dedicated towards his football, he lives his life correctly and he’s given himself a great chance of having a good career.”

Asked if he was surprised by O’Neill rate of progress this year, Jolley added: “No not at all. He’s a very good player and his progress has come through a lot of hard work, as that continues I’m sure he’s going to do really well and have a bright future.”

Hopes are also for young forward Tinashe Chakwana, who has come through the ranks and has been around Dyche’s first team squad this season, including in the 1-1 draw with Hull City at the weekend.

“He’s another player that we really like,” said Jolley. “Again he comes from a place of working very hard on his game.

“Without the ball he’s great at pressing with the team but then he’s got skill and good speed with the ball as well. He continues to work on his game development and he’s had a couple of times of being exposed to the first team. That can only help him.”