Burnley’s Australian starlet Aiden O’Neill is hoping to cap a whirlwind start to the new Premier League season by landing a Socceroos call-up as his unfolding career kicks into overdrive.
The kid from Brisbane, still only 18, came off the bench in the 2-0 season-opening win over Liverpool in the dying minutes, played a full 90 minutes in the shock 1-0 League Cup loss to Accrington Stanley and excelled in a 30-minute cameo in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat against Chelsea.
It's storybook stuff for a midfielder who is proud to be one of a dying breed - Australians playing in England’s top tier.
Having won the trust of the Clarets coach Sean Dyche, O’Neill is hoping for many more match minutes this season for the newly promoted club, and is also eagerly anticipating a possible call from Ange Postecoglou.
Though he will eligible to play for England in 18 months’ time after heading to the UK on an ancestry visa with his parents Greg - who runs a medical practice in Liverpool and architect mother Kerry - the Queenslander’s heart lies with Australia.
"I would really love to hear from Australia. They are the country for me ... it's where my heart is," said O'Neill.
"Playing for my home country would be my preference ... it's where I grew up, but they haven't come yet and it's true I would be eligible for England in about 18 months."
A box-to-box player with an eye for a clever pass and a bite in the tackle, O'Neill has yet to be capped by Australia at any level and has yet to be contacted by anybody within the national set-up.
“Maybe that’s a bit of a surprise in some ways," he admitted. "Especially when at 18 to make your Premier League debut, which is alright, isn't it.
“But I am sure my chance will come in time … obviously there are some really good Australian players out there but not many in the Premier League these days at all.
“The Socceroos midfield looks strong with players Massimo Luongo and Aaron Mooy ... it would be good to get among that group. it would improve me as a player, just like playing in the Premier League does.
“I feel proud to be an Aussie playing at this level … we have a very good bunch of players of players coming out of Australia at the moment and we need to keep doing what we are doing."
O'Neill signed his first professional deal with Burnley 18 months ago after joining the club as a junior in 2014 and he is grateful for the chance given to him by Dyche.
“Burnley have been good to me ... it's not easy to give an 18 year old a debut (against Liverpool) and then bring them on against Chelsea at 2-0 down," he added. "Especially when, let's be honest, we are probably going to be fighting to stay up among all these big teams who are spending huge amounts of money.
"It’s a big ask for gaffer to do that and to have trust in somebody so young I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for me already and what I am sure he will do for me in the future."
Breaking through so young has come as a shock to O'Neill. However, having trained with the first team last season, he knew it might be on the horizon.
"I kind of knew it was coming, but didn’t think it would be this early," he said. "I am a box-to-box player who works really hard. I am quite good on the ball and just always at it really.
"It’s a dream come true to play in the Premier League… it’s something I’d thought about every day since I was a boy. It’s always been the goal.
“When I was on the bench against Liverpool I didn’t really think anything of it, until the boss told me to get ready and that I was going on ... and it’s all gone from there really.
"I just want to keep doing what I am doing and hopefully I will get more games, maybe another five or so before Christmas (in the wake of Burnley splashing a club record $15 million on Anderlecht midfielder Steven Defour). That would be pretty good.
"We are a pretty tight-knit group and if we keep doing what we're doing we will grind out wins."