Sheffield United star's Jack O'Connell tribute as he looks to emulate injured "master"

Rhys Norrington-Davies has paid tribute to his fellow left-sided defender Jack O'Connell, admitting he is trying to reach the standards that his Sheffield United teammate set in that position before being struck down by injury.
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O'Connell established himself as a fans' favourite after making the position on the left of a defensive three his own, impressing both in defence and attack in League One, the Championship and then the Premier League.

The former Brentford man was surely on the verge of an England call-up when he was cruelly struck down by a knee injury and hasn't played since September 2020 as he continues his bid for full fitness.

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United have struggled to fill the void left by O'Connell ever since, with Welsh international Norrington-Davies proving arguably the best replacement option after cementing his place in the side this season.

Norrington-Davies has previously been viewed as O'Connell's natural successor by United coaching staff prior to Paul Heckingbottom's appointment, and looks set to book his spot in the Wales squad for this winter's World Cup after some encouraging displays with Robert Page's squad.

And, speaking to United's matchday programme, Norrington-Davies said: "Jack set the standard extremely high. He was one of the best in that position and must have been close to international recognition at the time. He'd mastered the role here.

Marvin Ekpiteta of Blackpool tackles Rhys Norrington-Davies of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / SportimageMarvin Ekpiteta of Blackpool tackles Rhys Norrington-Davies of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Marvin Ekpiteta of Blackpool tackles Rhys Norrington-Davies of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

"The fans, rightly, expect us playing now to reach those standards and that's what I'm striving to do personally. But he has been a big presence at the training ground and on matchdays, too.

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"I was relatively new to the position at the beginning of the season and he asked straightaway if I wanted him to look through my clips. He drops me messages and is just really supportive of the group.

"He points me in the right direction, and I want to listen to one of the best. Understandably he is a favourite with the fans and he deserves all the plaudits for how he continues to handle himself.

Jack O’Connell of Sheffield United: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageJack O’Connell of Sheffield United: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Jack O’Connell of Sheffield United: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage

"I'm one who always paints pictures of how a game could pan out in my head, so I can see it quicker on the pitch and honestly, he's a terrific help."