School pals captain Celtic and Aberdeen U-17s
A UNIQUE milestone was achieved last month when two former Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers players pitted their wits against each other in the professional ranks.
James Keating and Stephen O’Donnell captained Celtic under-17s and Aberdeen under-17s respectively in a game between the two clubs with Stephen coming out on top – and not for the first time.
James and Stephen attended St Aidan’s High School before pursing a career in football.
As six-year-olds they both joined Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers under the guidance of coaches Stevie McCann and George McVerry.
But now the boys are hoping to make it in the big time at two of the country’s biggest football clubs.
Stephen, now 16, was first spotted as a rare talent seven years ago whilst playing for Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers.
After that he played and trained at Aberdeen’s soccer base in Glasgow for their boys’ team before signing professional forms with The Dons in June this year.
The full-back said: “I have settled in all right and live with two other players in Aberdeen town centre but football wise I have started quite slowly.”
He explained: “I started as first choice left back for the under-19s but things have gone downhill recently.
“I was injured for two weeks at the end of pre-season but I did get back for the first game played.
“I got hooked at half-time because I was playing badly, but that is what happens.
“It is a lot harder than I thought and there is a lot more pressure being a pro.
“So I just need to get my head back up and work on a few things. It was hard during the summer up here when my friends were off school down at home and a lot was happening.
“But now that they are back at school they are in studying every night so it is not as if I’m missing very much socially.”
Having been jettisoned to the under-17s in recent weeks, he was made captain of the side that took on Celtic and his former playing buddy James.
And it was the men in red that came out on top winning the match 4-1.
Stephen laughed: “I have played against him before but it was just weird at the start of the game when we went up to shake hands.
“I didn’t know he was captain so it was surprising. He has never managed to beat me no matter how many times we have played each other over the years.
“But he is a decent player and is in the Scotland under-17 squad so he is doing well.”
Stephen, who also studies Maths at college, is coached at the football club by former St Mirren player Neil Cooper and Aberdeen star Neil Simpson.
And he is hoping that under their watchful gaze, during the next few months he can regain his place in the under-19 side saying: “It is a question of taking the chances when I get them.
“If I keep my concentration and do nothing stupid at the back that would help.
“I was ball-watching basically, a schoolboy error.
“But the good thing about that is it is something that you can learn from and work on.”