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O’Dowda reflects on the early years

Callum O’Dowda has come a long way since his Oxford United days, the club where he rose through the youth ranks before turning professional.

He would go on to score at Wembley Stadium for the U’s, his hometown club, and he looks back on his days at the Kassam Stadium with fondness.

Winger O’Dowda was speaking to Downsy in the latest episode of the Robins Nest Podcast, where he spoke about the moment he realised a career as a professional footballer could be a real possibility.

“You’re playing because you love the game, first and foremost, it’s the thing when you play for a football team,” O’Dowda said. “I joined Oxford United from the age of eight all the way through to Under-16s and I did my scholarship.

“I think I was about 15 or 16 when things started to get serious, when I was leaving school I thought ‘hang on a second, this could be really something.’

“Everything’s on social media – not so much back then – but you’re watching the Premier League and La Liga on TV and you idolise these players,” he said, citing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale as players he admired.

“I’d say it was then, about 15 or 16, when big decisions are being made. It’s then whether or not you will go on to get a scholarship and potentially a professional contract or it could be something new, depending on what you did at GCSE,” he said.

O’Dowda, a Republic of Ireland international, was 20 years old when he helped take Oxford United to the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2016, one year on from City’s success in competition.

Despite putting the U’s into a 29th minute lead, O’Dowda’s side lost 3-2 to Barnsley at Wembley, with a certain Josh Brownhill lifting the trophy for the Tykes. The pair would go on to share a close friendship at City.

Casting his mind back to that afternoon in London, O’Dowda reflected: “It was really nice. I was born and bred in Oxford so it was a special moment.

“I watched at Wembley when they got promoted from the conference and then years later I was playing at Wembley for them. We didn’t win the game but I remember playing against Josh! We didn’t know each other at the time. Lee Johnson told me he was at the game with one of his analysts as well but it was a great moment. We lost but on reflection it was class.

“I do!” he said, when asked if he missed Josh, who got a Premier League move to Burnley back in January. “I miss Taylor Moore as well but we all speak quite a lot. Taylor I’m close to especially and we went on holiday together a couple of years ago. I speak to the lads, Sammie (Szmodics) as well. We’re all friends at City and we have a good mix of lads there.

“It’s the things in common. We [Josh and I] joined in the same transfer window as well and the Gaffer put us together, we shared a room in the pre-season tour. It started from there, we’re around the same age, have the same things in common and that’s how it started.”

O’Dowda talks idols, moving to City for a new challenge, the appealing nature of Bristol, returning to training and much more in episode 10 of the Robins Nest.

Listen to episode 10 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.

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