Michael O’Connor staying grounded despite West Brom, Newcastle rumours

In stark contrast to Scunthorpe United's form this season, Michael O'Connor admits he's never played better.

The 23 year-old free-scoring midfielder's recent performances have won a return to Nigel Worthington's Northern Ireland squad - and transfer speculation linking him with the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United.

By his own admission, O'Connor's impact has come in a rush.

"I don't think I have played as well as I have since getting back in the team around five weeks ago," he told tribalfootball.com.

"But I haven't really been surprised about my scoring form this season, because I have always had a good goal scoring record at youth level.

"I'm now fully fit and the gaffer here is giving me more of a role where I'm getting forward a lot more this year."

It's that eye for goal and support from Scunthorpe manager Ian Baraclough that earned O'Connor a recall to the Northern Ireland squad for the friendly against Morocco.

"It was great to be back in the squad and win my 10th cap," said the midfielder.

"I really was great. (But) I need to try and keep my performances up at club level if I want to stay in the squad."

And on transfer speculation linking him with a January move to the Premier League, O'Connor again is not getting carried away.

"It's always nice to be getting noticed by other teams," he says. "It shows that I have been playing well.

"But I'm not taking much notice of it."

His own ambitions aside, O'Connor admits the surprise England selection of Cardiff City striker Jay Bothroyd has lifted morale amongst Championship players - and is a sure sign of the quality that exists immediately below the Premier League.

"It shows that the Championship is a great league with great players in it," declares O'Connor. "Bothroyd is one of the best strikers in this league."

O'Connor believes Bothroyd may not have to leave Cardiff in the summer to get his wish of Premier League football as he sees the Bluebirds and Swansea City making it a one-two for Welsh clubs this season.

"Swansea and Cardiff have impressed me a lot.

"Cardiff has some Premiership experience in their team and Swansea pass the ball for fun."

O'Connor admits he's also been impressed by Sean O'Driscoll's Doncaster Rovers and their winger James Coppinger.

"Doncaster are a great passing team as well," he continued. "James Coppinger, of Doncaster, caught my eye when we played them."

If he is to get a Premier League move, O'Connor will be the latest of a long line of graduates from Dario Gradi's Crewe Alexandre setup. The Ulsterman's departure from Gresty Road wasn't the smoothest, particularly after a £1 million move to Derby County fell through, but O'Connor insists his issues with the club never ran to his relationship with Gradi.

"Dario has made me the player I am today," he declares. "I was with Crewe since I was 12 years of age and he helped me a lot while I was there.

"He's a great manager and a great coach, his record speaks for itself.

"I never had issues with Dario when I was at Crewe."

For now, it's Scunthorpe and their place on the Championship table that is the issue. But fans of the Iron can be assured that despite his great press, O'Connor isn't about to skip out in their time of need.

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