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Footballers have different ways of improving their skills, but for young Burnley midfielder Aiden O’Neill it was turning to Montie, the family Jack Russell to help him.

Montie still lives in Brisbane in Australia with Aiden’s sister but when the football mad young Aussie wanted to improve as a footballer he went to the field at the bottom of the family home with his Jack Russell.

“I spent a lot of time on that field at home,” O’Neill, who is currently holidaying on the Gold Coast in Australia, told The Weekend Australian. “There were hours and hours spent running at Montie, who just loved to try and get the ball. She wasn’t a bad defender,” he added. “Sadly we couldn’t take her to the UK but she is enjoying being with my sister in Brisbane.”

1617 burnley aiden oneill 01 1000O’Neill’s move to England had nothing to do with football. “I had to move when mum and dad got some very good work opportunities,” he said. He was 14 at the time and had played football with a number of junior clubs up to the age of 13 and then just school football.

Once in Lancashire, his parents decided to enrol him in a private football academy but after a month the owner organised a trial for him at Burnley. “They offered me a two year football scholarship after six months,” he said.

Despite having to wait over a year before he could play competitively, and he only played once in the youth team during his scholarship and that was the FA Youth Cup defeat against the Metropolitan Police, he progressed quickly and made a first team debut in last season’s 2-0 home win against Liverpool.

“I was just stoked to be even on the bench and when the gaffer told me to put my shirt on I couldn’t believe it,” he admitted. “I was buzzing. It was only a few minutes but I really loved the experience.”

Two more Premier League substitute appearances followed at Chelsea and Southampton before he joined Oldham on loan for the second half of last season where he made 14 appearances.

O’Neill would also love to play for Australia. He’s had approaches from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland but got his first Aussie call up to an under-23 training camp in March. “I loved it,” he said. “The training was great and playing a couple of friendlies was great too.”

He has two years remaining on his Turf Moor contract with an option for an extra year and he’ll be flying back over from Australia later this month, sadly without Montie.

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