Date: 3rd March 2006 at 4:55pm
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Dario Gradi has revealed that he no longer considers Michael O’Connor to be an academy player. Instead, the 18-year old Northern Irish midfielder is now a member of the first team squad and has given a favourable impression in training, ‘He has trained with the first team all season and is becoming a force.’

Gradi also reaffirmed O’Connor’s position above Justin Cochrane in the midfielder pecking order, ‘I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in the team now. That is what he is here for and is one of the reasons why we let Justin Cochrane go out on loan. We think Michael could become a really good player for us and he is getting to that age where we need to see what he can do.’

O’Connor, who made a very brief debut against Brighton on Saturday, could well be on the bench for tonight’s game at Bramall lane. Meanwhile, out-of-favour midfielder Justin Cochrane scored for Gillingham at the weekend but has not been very impressive for the Kent side during his loan spell so far. Another Crewe midfielder who is out on loan, Ben Rix, enjoyed a good start at Bournemouth but his form too has since dipped.