AIDEN O’Brien has revealed he urged his manager Neil Harris to give him a chance up front this season – and he is confident his partnership with Matt Smith can continue to blossom.
The pair scored three goals between them as Millwall went unbeaten in the first four games before Wednesday’s 4-0 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage where they started on the bench.
O’Brien has played up front for Ireland from underage to senior, and also came through at Millwall as a striker under Harris, but has mainly been used on the left wing for the last four campaigns.
“I’m off the mark for the season, which is always good, you want to get off early,” O’Brien, who scored the winner in the first round of the EFL Cup against West Brom, said. “Hopefully I can nick a few more goals because I’m playing up top now I feel I’ll get more chances.
“At the start of last season and this season I said to [Harris], ‘I was playing up front for my country whenever I’ve gone there, from the under-18s, 21s. I played up front for you when you were the under-21 manager. I can play on the wing, I can play behind the striker but I really want to go up front.’
“He said, ‘yeah, I can hear you loud and clear, you’ll get your chance up front’.
“It doesn’t mean I’m not going to play on the wing or in any other position. I’m more than capable of playing different positions. But he’s started me up front in a couple of games and I’ve enjoyed it so much. Hopefully we can win more games and I’ll be up front.”
O’Brien and Smith have started together in attack in Millwall’s two league games at The Den, 1-0 wins over Preston and Sheffield Wednesday.
O’Brien added: “I know whenever the ball goes forward I’ve got to take my position from him, make sure that I gain that second ball. Nine times out of 10 if not 10 times out of 10 he’s going to win the header. After a couple of games I’m reading where the flick-ons are going.
“It’s coming to me more, getting the second balls, and that will happen more over time when you get used to playing with someone.”
“At the moment I’m enjoying it up top with him, he’s scoring goals so long may that continue.”
Meanwhile, O’Brien was called into a provisional 40-man Ireland squad by Mick McCarthy for a Euro 2020 qualifier against Switzerland and a friendly against Bulgaria in September.
He hopes to make the final cut.
He said: “I suppose [McCarthy] is watching everyone and seeing how they get on, narrowing it down based on form and who’s fit. It will be interesting to see if I can be involved.”
*Read a longer interview with Aiden O'Brien in today's Southwark News, where he talks about his ambitions off the pitch, including helping to provide career pathways to young people and adults who lack opportunities because of a little funding or family support in his home borough of Islington.
Image: Millwall FC