Sheffield United: The rise and rise of birthday boy Jack O'Connell + watch all of his goals

Jack O'Connell heads in the opener against Millwall

Jack O'Connell heads in the opener against Millwall

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A man of the match display against Millwall last night further enhanced Jack O'Connell's repurtation as one of the best central defenders in the division.

Here, Louis Hobbs looks at the impact O'Connell has made, after a difficult beginning to life at Bramall Lane.

Experiencing a rough start to the season, O'Connell started the first five games of the season, failing to capture a win in any of them.

To highlight his bad start, O'Connell scored an own goal in the 3-0 hammering by Southend and then gifted Millwall the three points in the fifth game of the season, carelessly giving away a penalty from an handball, which Steve Morison converted.

Since then, O'Connell managed to transform his game, and has become an instrumental part of Wilder's system. Holding an impressive 44 appearances to his name, more than any other United player this season. As well as being involved in keeping 14 clean sheets this season. O'Connell also seems to have adapted an attacking mentality within his game, scoring six goals this year in a Blades shirt, making him the club's joint third highest goal scorer of the season.

The centre-back's debut goal coming in a Checkatrade Trophy fixture against Grimsby, in which he scored the third goal in an impressive 4-2 victory.

Jack O'Connell celebrates scoring his sixth goal of the season

Jack O'Connell celebrates scoring his sixth goal of the season

His second was only seen as a consolation goal, as his side exited the FA Cup following a 3-2 defeat agaisnt Bolton. His third goal was crucial, converting a Mark Duffy cross to put the Blades ahead 2-1 against Southend, the games ending 4-2 to the Blades.

He further managed to score an equaliser away at Walsall, despite that United were dominated afterwards and lost the game 4-1.

In a home fixture against Charlton, O'Connell scored the equaliser, which inspired his team to go on and win the game 2-1.

His most recent goal, is even more proof on how Jack has vastly improved his game. After handing Millwall that win back in August 2016, O'Connell redeemed himself by scoring the first goal and being a huge influence in the creation of the second.

When asked about his attacking play style O'Connell, admitted: "I've always had that attacking mindset, playing two at the back you can't do it. But with the three at the back it gives you the license to forward more."

Jack O'Connell Factfile

| Jack O'Connell, born in Liverpool, 29 March 1994, started his footballing career with the youth team at Liverpool County Premier League club REMYCA at the age of 16.

| He signed for Blackburn's academy in the summer of 2011, making 49 appearances and scored three goals for the club's youth and reserve teams.

| Signing a two-year professional contract with Rovers in May 2012, but was loaned out during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

| On 22 November 2012, he signed on loan to League two club Rotherham on a 6-month deal. Making only five appearances before returning to Blackburn.

| On 24 January 2013, he signed for another League Two club on loan, York City on a one-month loan, which was later extended until the end of the 2012-13 season. O'Connell managed 18 appearances before his loan expired.

| In that season, O'Connell was also capped eight times by England at under-19 level, including three as captain.

| The 2013-14 season saw Jack complete a loan move to League Two club Rochdale, on a six-month deal. Although, due to consistently good performances, Dale manager Keith Hill extended the deal until the end of the season. He was also named club captain, with Rochdale finishing third in the league, earning promotion to League One.

| O'Connell then rejoined Rochdale on a six-month loan, on 1 September 2014. Across the two spells he made 64 appearances, scoring three goals.

| On 2 February 2015, he signed for championship club Brentford on three-and-a-half year contract, but subsequently returned to Spotland until the end of the season. Over the course of his three spells at Rochdale, the center-half made 76 appearances, scoring five goals.

| On his return to Brentford, he made his long-awaited debut in Brentford's second match of the 2015-16, a 4-0 League Cup defeat in the hands of Oxford United. He failed to maintain a first team place throughout the full season, finishing with 18 appearances and one goal.

| On 8 July 2016, O'Connell signed for Sheffield United on a three-year deal, becoming Chris Wilder's fifth signing of the season.

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