Jack O’Connell believes he can achieve his ambition of becoming a top-flight footballer at Sheffield United after signing a new long-term contract at Bramall Lane.
The centre-half, who is now tied to the Championship club for the next four and-a-half years, described his decision to commit as “a no-brainer” having been informed of manager Chris Wilder’s plans.
O’Connell, a member of last season’s League One title-winning squad, said: “This club can go all the way, if we keep working hard and getting our heads down. The gaffer has recruited well in terms of every player in the changing room being a winner. We can keep moving forward and see where we can take things come the end of the season.”
United enter tomorrow’s game against Burton Albion second in the table, two points behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers who face Reading this weekend.
“Things have gone really well since I came to the club,” O’Connell, previously of Brentford, continued. “The first aim was to get promoted, this club had to manage that.
“This season, we maybe didn’t expect to quite be where we are near the top but, nevertheless, we have worked hard to get there and now we want to stay up there.”
“I don’t care whether people are noticing us or not,” he added. “I might even prefer if they didn’t. As long as we keep doing what we are doing, anyone else doesn’t really matter.
“Teams like Huddersfield were under the radar (last season). We were not the favourites to get promoted this time and that probably makes things a bit easier.”
O’Connell, aged 23, put pen to paper on a three year deal when he arrived from Griffin Park 16 months ago. After enduring a frustrating time in the capital, making only 11 starts for Dean Smith’s side, Wilder paid an undisclosed six figure sum to acquire his services at the beginning of last term.
“He’s not just impressed me, he’s impressed everybody,” Wilder said. “There’s only one opinion on Jack and that is he’s an important player who has done fantastically well. He’s adapted well to the step up from Brentford’s reserves. He wanted to stay here, I wanted to keep him. So that was that.”
United’s determination to protect their assets has seen a number of players, including David Brooks and John Fleck, agree new contracts in recent months.
O’Connell, whose previous deal had been due to expire in 2019, said: “Once the gaffer said he wanted to extend the contract, it was a no brainer. I fit into the club and the way we play.
“I have things to prove here. It didn’t work out at Brentford in the Championship for me so that leaves me with something to prove. But it is also the fans, I believe I proved something to them but now I want to keep doing that. It is a case of cracking on.
“Things are going well but that only comes from hard work. We have to keep carrying on with all that hard work if we want to succeed.”