Red Devils’ biggest catch lands in Ballarat

FOUR weeks ago, playing soccer in Australia had never crossed former Liverpool defender Danny O’Donnell’s mind.

Now he is a fully fledged Ballarat Red Devil and cannot wait to get out on the pitch for the biggest season in the club’s history.

O’Donnell, 28, arrived in Ballarat from the United Kingdom in the early hours of yesterday morning, and the Reds are trumpeting him as their biggest-ever recruit.

Lured from the other side of the world by new manager James Robinson, O’Donnell said he was genuinely excited about playing in the new National Premier League Victoria competition.

“I could just tell by speaking to the manager, in terms of the enthusiasm and the drive that he’s got and what people are setting up over here ... it is something I want to be a part of,” he said.

“It was only about four weeks ago I heard about it and only about three weeks ago it started becoming serious.

“In a way, it’s better it was such a rush because there’s less time to think about it. The sooner I get myself out on the pitch the better. It’s been a real whirlwind.”

The club captain of his former team in England, Barrow, as well as a junior coach at Everton, O’Donnell said coming to Ballarat was a difficult decision, but one he could not pass up.

“On the face of it I was jumping at the opportunity to get out here, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty and everyday existence back home, everything adds up and it makes it that bit harder,” he said.

O’Donnell said he had been to Australia once before, when he toured with the Liverpool youth squad as a 16-year-old.

He also played two first-team matches for Liverpool in the pre-season in 2006, one against Crewe Alexander, where he was eventually signed, going on to play almost 150 matches in the Championship and League One.

“The enthusiasm for the game when I came over a few years ago was brilliant and if there is still that level of interest around then it is going to be a great place to come,” he said.

It is unlikely the centre-back will be able to play in the season opener against Bentleigh Greens on Saturday night, with final transfer papers yet to be officially signed. However, he hopes to be playing as soon as

 possible.

patrick.nolan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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