Bristol City manager Lee Johnson has revealed that he would like to see young keeper Max O’Leary become a ‘spiritual leader’ for his side.
The 22-year-old stopper made just his 14th senior appearance for The Robins as they were defeated 2-1 by promotion-chasing rivals Aston Villa at Villa Park this afternoon.
O’Leary put on a truly inspirational display as he effectively kept his side in the match until the very final whistle. Some of the youngster’s most notable saves saw O’Leary keep out a Conor Hourihane header from point blank range in the first half before he denied both John McGinn and Hourihane in quick succession early in the second period. O’Leary crowned off a superb performance with injury time saves from Keinan Davis and McGinn as The Robins lost by just the odd goal.
Speaking to The72 after the match, Bristol City manager Johnson hailed the performance of his young keeper.
“He was fantastic” said The Robins boss. “It was a bit of a coming of age performance last week but today he went that step further.
“He’s one of the best I’ve seen with that instinctive touch save and he made three or four really good ones today.”
Despite his young age and lack of experience, O’Leary was not overawed by the occasion and showed a level of maturity throughout the 90 minutes. Manager Johnson is looking for the player to become a leader in the side throughout his career at Ashton Gate.
He added “I think he has got all of the tools (to be a top goalkeeper).
“He has got a great temperament and he obviously makes saves like those today.
“We want him to be bold and be a bit of a spiritual leader in the way which he influences the back four or five and that progression is continuing to improve.
“It has been unfortunate that we have had both of our number ones ruled out for the season but at the same time, it is a great opportunity for Max and he has taken it with both hands.”
The form of O’Leary could be key for Bristol City between now and the end of the season with The Robins having just one point’s breathing space between themselves and seventh position in the Sky Bet Championship table.