Burnley midfielder O’Neill keen to make most of China chance

Aiden O’Neill understands how big January 2018 could be for his international career.

The 19-year-old box-to-box, ball-winning midfielder from Premier League outfit Burnley FC linked with Ante Milicic’s young charges in Shanghai earlier this week determined to make his mark in the green and gold at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China.

O’Neill recognises that impressive displays at international youth level in January, parlayed into strong form at club level through to the end of the current season, could put him into consideration for Caltex Socceroos selection by the time Russia rolls around.

Aiden O'Neill

“As soon as I received the e-mail about my selection in the under 23s I called my parents, and then my agent to say that I would really like be involved,” O’Neill told Socceroos.com.au from the team’s base camp in China.

“I was on loan at Fleetwood Town [in League One] and they weren’t too keen on me travelling, however Burnley were very easy with it and supported my desire to come to China to represent Australia.

“Since we’ve been here Ante (Milicic) has made it clear that this is a massive chance for all of us.

"He’s explained to us that if we do well he’ll make sure that we are on the radar once the new Head Coach is appointed for the Socceroos,” he said.

While O’Neill has primarily spent the past few days in China getting to know his Australian U23 teammates, as well as the squad’s staff, in the lead up to the team’s opening match against Syria on Thursday 11 January, he’s also had to bear in mind some Club matters.

Indeed, the Brisbane-born player who made his Premier League debut for Burnley against Liverpool in 2016, has just been recalled by Sean Dyche’s team from Turf Moor

While O’Neill doesn’t know just yet if he will remain with ‘The Clarets’ until the end of the campaign or be sent out on loan to another Club, he said that playing and training with Burnley since his arrival at the Club in 2014 has helped his game enormously.

“The experience that I have had over the past couple of years has been massive,” O’Neill explained. “Being at Burnley around top players has shown me the level I want to be at, and you just have to try to take it all in and learn as much as you can.”

O’Neill will be seeking to utilise his experiences from in and around the Premier League for Australia this month as Milicic’s men take on Syria, Vietnam, and Korea Republic in Group D of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship.

Earlier this week, Football Federation Australia (FFA) announced that all three of Australia’s matches at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China will be broadcast LIVE, EXCLUSIVE, and ad-break free during play on FOX SPORTS.

Australia’s results at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship will impact the team’s seeding for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship, which will double as the qualification tournament for the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan.

Aiden O'Neill
Aiden O'Neill (rear) in action for Burnley

Australia U23 v Syria U23
Thursday 11 January 2018
Kunshan Stadium, Kunshan
Kick-off: 4pm (local); 7pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Second half LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS 501 following ‘Just For Kicks’

Vietnam U23 v Australia U23
Sunday 14 January 2018
Kunshan Stadium, Kunshan
Kick-off: 4pm (local); 7pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Full match LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS 506

Korea Republic U23 v Australia U23
Wednesday 17 January 2018
Kunshan Stadium, Kunshan
Kick-off: 7.30pm (local); 10.30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Full match LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS 501