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James Crawley

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Posted Wednesday, May 20th 2020

From the classroom to Ashton Gate...how Max O'Leary got his chance

It all started with a phone call while a young Max O’Leary was hard at work in school.

The date was October 22nd 2013 and City had a League One fixture against Brentford at Ashton Gate that evening.

Ali Hines, goalkeeping coach at the Academy, was trying to contact Max to tell him he had been called up to the matchday squad for the very first time!

“I was at school and my phone was going mental,” Max recalled, speaking to Downsy in the latest episode of the Robins Nest Podcast. “I was in a lesson and my phone kept ringing. The people who only rang me were my mum, my dad or my mates and they were in school so something must be wrong. I looked and I had a few missed calls from Ali. I was told I was needed that night and to report to the ground.

“I didn’t drive so I had an Academy group driver pick me up and he took me to the game. I was in a lesson at school in the day and at the game in the evening."

Injury had earned Max’s call up to the squad though he would not make his debut that evening with Elliot Parish completing the full 90 minutes between the sticks in the 2-1 defeat to Brentford.

“It gave me a glimmer of what was to come,” Max said. “And it was nice to know they were thinking of me. It was a last-minute thing due to injury but at least I was in and around it and that I might get that chance again in the future.”

Fast forward to January 9th 2016 and Max would get his chance in the Robins goal, coming off the bench at half-time in an FA Cup 3rd round fixture against West Bromwich Albion.

Chucked into the action at the Hawthorns in 2016

Injury to Frank Fielding gave Max his chance, with Frank signalling towards the latter end of the first period that he was struggling.

“I could see it coming,” Max said. “The boys on the bench were nudging me saying you’re coming on in front of all these people! I was like ‘don’t talk to me, please!’ so I went for a run down the touchline.

“I went into the changing room and Steve Cotterill said ‘Max you’re coming on, get ready.’ I needed to catch a few balls first, so it was all a bit frantic!

“It was pretty cool. I started warming up in front of the away end and getting used to my surroundings helped me a bit.”

Max would eventually make his league debut for City away to Brentford in the Sky Bet Championship on October 20th 2018. Max kept a clean sheet as City won 1-0 at Griffin Park. He played a big role in the 2018/19 campaign, and he has spent the current campaign on loan at Shrewsbury Town.

Max saves a penalty at the Den in the penultimate match of the 18/19 season

As fate would have it, the Shrews and City would face off in the FA Cup, the first meeting took place in BS3. Max wasn’t able to feature.

Max said: “I remember debating what to wear! That was weird but nice to see everyone and the new players from the summer I hadn’t met. I knew both sets of players which was cool to see how they fared against each other so that was a good watch.

“I think it was my mum [who called me after the draw] because I don’t think I watched the draw actually. We had a few messages after that! I said before that with all my luck we would get Bristol City so I was fuming.”

The draw meant whoever won between Shrewsbury and City would face off against European champions and Premier League high-flyers Liverpool in the next round.

He continued: “You see the draw and everyone is thinking we can have them in the next round. It was a win-win for me really because if Shrewsbury Town lost City would play Liverpool and that would be a great game to watch. The way it turned out we ended up playing against them anyway! It was a good incentive and the Shrewsbury boys made it a point to try and get that game."

Liverpool would overcome the Shrews despite the League One side earning a replay, but Max put in an impressive display up against the likes of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, earning praise from the likes of Joe Hart.

“That was a great occasion and big for the club as well. To get a team flying high in the Premier League was a great experience and challenge. Personally, I did alright and it was a great occasion. I enjoyed it," he said.

Listen in full

Downsy hosts the episode from the comfort of his own home, as the Academy product discusses his path into professional football, his love for cricket, a unique initiation at Shrewsbury Town and much more!

Listen to episode nine and catch up on previous Robins Nest episodes via the following platforms:

Buzzsprout
Apple Podcasts
Spotify

There is also the option for supporters to watch the podcast via the club’s official YouTube channel.