By Charlie Bennett,
When Mark O’Hara joined Peterborough in May, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers made a point to phone Posh manager Steve Evans and wax lyrical about their new No.8.
Three games into the new season and Rodgers’ effusive praise seems perfectly justified.
O’Hara moved to London Road after his contract at Dundee expired, and Celtic are one of the clubs he supposedly turned down as he headed for England.
Peterborough fans must be thankful he did. A goal on his debut against Bristol Rovers was a nice way to introduce himself to the Posh faithful and he backed that up with two more in the thumping 4-1 win at Rochdale a week later.
Most will not have heard of him three weeks ago but now his is the name on everyone’s lips.
“It is great to get recognition from someone like that. Celtic are a massive club and Brendan has managed in the Premier League,” said the 22-year-old.
“But I can’t stop now. I need to push on even more. I came across him a few times and it is nice to hear he is keeping track of players down here.
“It won’t distract me though. I am fully focussed.
“Steve said you only get one chance at a first impression so it was massive for me to do well from the outset and introduce myself to the fans.
“A lot of people would not have known who I was, so it was always important for me to come down and make an impression early on. I’m delighted to do that.”
O’Hara’s primary motivation for heading south was to break through into the Scottish national side, under the stewardship of Alex McLeish in his second stint in charge. He could hardly have picked a better club.
Peterborough’s attractive style and record for improving players is up there with the best. Derby’s Jack Marriott is just the latest to move onto better things, while Dwight Gayle (West Brom, on loan from Newcastle) is another who has been sold for big bucks.
“I was offered something in Scotland but I was frustrated and at a stage where I thought for my career I needed to come to England and have a crack,” explained O’Hara.
“I want to play at as high a level as possible. When I met with the manager, the goal was to get promoted, so this club matches my ambitions.
“Hopefully we can do that together. Things down here are done a lot more professionally I would say, everyone is working very hard and there is a real togetherness in the squad.
“We have had a good start to the season and long may it continue.”
Posh are one of the heavy favourites for promotion this season and in Evans they have a manager who knows how to get out of League One.
He led Rotherham up through the play-offs in 2014 and, with six goals in their first two games, his promise to retain Peterborough’s attacking traditions looks solid.
O’Hara seems set for a big role this season and Evans’ drive and enthusiasm attracted him to the club from the off.
“I met the manager and was impressed right away. He wanted the deal done as soon as possible so I could plan right away what I was doing,” he added.
“Off the pitch, it has been a massive change for me. I have never lived away from my mum, dad and home before.
“I have enjoyed it. It has taken a bit of adjustment – before I was not cooking every night and now I am. I am not bad