Praised by AC-12, chosen by José Mourinho, greeted by the Prime Minister and most likely celebrating while baking cakes in the kitchen of the Scottish team hotel.
If England fans didn’t know much about Stephen O’Donnell before, they would have cursed him as he left Wembley pitch after Friday’s goalless draw.
O’Donnell was the most unlikely candidate to be a national hero. Criticized – unfairly in the eyes of head coach Steve Clarke – for his performance against the Czech Republic on Monday, many did not even expect Motherwell’s right-back to keep his place against the English.
But, after his swashbuckling demonstration in London, BBC Scotland learns more about the steadfast Scottish right-back …
Return Faith and Dominate Sterling
The 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic did little to inspire confidence in much of the Tartan army. O’Donnell was subsequently referred to by some on social media as having a nervous display before being replaced.
Indeed, many were demanding that Rangers rookie right-back Nathan Patterson or Celtic winger James Forrest be selected for the trip to England.
“Analyze the game before you start killing players just because of who they are and where they play,” Clarke said ahead of the game from the man he led at Kilmarnock.
The Scotland head coach has stayed with O’Donnell for Wembley, and his faith in the 29-year-old has paid off, and more. Raheem Sterling was reduced to just five touches in the Scottish area – none of which was a shot – and substitute Jack Grealish rarely threatened either.
In addition, O’Donnell carried out an effective raid on the right. And if it hadn’t been for a terrific save by Jordan Pickford, his first-half volley might very well have resulted in an even more famous Scottish result.
The former Partick Thistle player also enjoyed 46 touches of the ball, more than England’s top three Sterling, Harry Kane and Phil Foden.
“I think what’s frustrating in society now you see it all, you catch it and it’s hard to walk away from it,” O’Donnell told BBC Scotland after the game.
” It’s difficult. At 29 you think it’s easy, but it’s brand new to all of us, and I’m just glad I was able to pay off, most importantly, the manager. “
“A model to inspire the next generation”
O’Donnell’s performance in what was his 19th cap drew praise from all sides, especially from his manager, who told BBC Scotland he ‘should have started the interview with two words: Stephen O’ Donnell. He was exceptional ”.
The Scottish head coach wasn’t the only one impressed either. Captain Andy Robertson was one of his teammates to give him a spontaneous name check in their post-game interviews.
Line of Duty actor Martin Compston also got involved; Roma boss Mourinho referred to what would have been an “incredible goal”; and Nicola Sturgeon even gave it a special mention.
The man, the brother and the wizard in the kitchen
While Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson and Scott McTominay are known around the world for their roles at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, O’Donnell’s cult status is usually reserved for those with an ML1 postcode.
Surprisingly, at this time last year, the defender was technically unemployed. After ending his time at Kilmarnock, the right-back’s future was unclear and he trained with Hamilton Academical to stay in shape.
Just days after the start of last season, a deal was struck with Motherwell’s hometown, with O’Donnell helping Scotland secure their place at Euro 2020 with a victory in Belgrade three months later.
“I had to play to have a chance,” said O’Donnell, who spent two years in Luton Town before returning north to Kilmarnock, to BBC Scotland ahead of the tournament. “Actually, I thought maybe I left him too late to enter. “
However, her connection to Clarke is long standing. Among other things, he talks about his manager’s promise to allow him to attend his brother Mark’s ordination as a priest regardless of football commitments during their time at Rugby Park, only for Clarke’s successor, Angelo Alessio, forbids him to go there.
“He kept picking me,” said O’Donnell, who made his international debut under Alex McLeish. “Sometimes my form maybe deserved it, sometimes maybe not. So for him to always trust me, that makes a big difference. “
As well as having Sterling in his back pocket, the Defender is also known to have a whisk or a rolling pin on hand. O’Donnell’s passion off the pitch is cooking, with the Scottish team familiar with their creations.
“I love to cook and that,” he beamed. “If the chef lets me into the hotel kitchen, maybe I’ll make a little platter, but there is no drama. “
No drama at all.