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Former Burnley midfielder James O’Connor first went to the United States to join Orlando City as a player and this week he will return to the club as head coach after a successful four years in charge of Louisville City.

The move will see O’Connor become the second former Claret to lead Orlando, following on from Adrian Heath, and he’ll also move into the MLS for the first time having been involved in the USL since signing for Orlando in January 2012.

0405 burnley james oconnor 01Having moved from Burnley to Sheffield Wednesday in the summer of 2008, O’Connor spent three and a half years at Hillsborough. He was offered a new long term deal by then manager Gary Megson but opted to move to Orlando where he played in the USL for Heath and took on some coaching duties.

June 2014 saw him make the move away from his first club. Orlando won a franchise in the MLS and sold  their USL PRO franchise to a new club Louisville City who would become Orlando’s affiliate club from 2015. He’s been in charge there since and has helped the club become established with a top place finish in the Eastern Conference and ultimately to win the 2017 USL Cup Championship.

He was in charge yesterday for the final time in a 3-3 draw against New York Red Bulls II in what was described as an emotional night but next weekend he’ll be boss at Orlando when they face Los Angeles FC.

Orlando general manager Niki Budalic said: “James was our top target going into the coaching search. He has proven himself a consistent winner as both a player and coach at the USL level, and now is extremely eager to prove himself in MLS. James is very aware of the winning culture we have built in Orlando and what it will take to uphold that tradition in both the short and long term. We couldn’t be more excited to get started.”

His former boss Heath, now in charge of Minnesota United, said on hearing the news of his appointment: “I’m absolutely delighted for James. He’s worked really hard for this opportunity. He was coaching with me when I was back there in the early days, when we were USL. So he’s worked really hard. Done a great job at Louisville.

“You know, it’s nice to see another guy out of the USL getting an opportunity. He’ll do very well. He’s a good guy, a good coach. And if they give him time, I’m sure he’ll do it right. Time is the operative word.”

O’Connor first came to Burnley on loan in October 2004, making his debut as a substitute in a 3-0 defeat at QPR. He spent three months with us before returning to West Brom. However, in March 2005 we paid £175,000 for his services.

A player who always divided opinion, he went on to make 149 appearances for the Clarets up to the end of the 2007/08 season after which he was offered a new contract along with Jon Harley. Just days later, both saw the offers withdrawn with Harley speaking out and saying that he’d never felt less welcome at a football club. O’Connor kept a dignified silence and signed for Sheffield Wednesday.

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