Altrincham have a new goalkeeper after Phil Parkinson snapped up highly-rated one-time Manchester United prospect Oliver Byrne from Welsh club Connah’s Quay for an undisclosed fee.
The 24-year old has big boots to fill as replacement for the hugely-popular Tony Thompson, but he arrives at The J.Davidson Stadium with a reputation that suggests the task will not faze him.
Left-footed like Tommo, he played alongside Marcus Rashford for United’s under-18 side and was a two-times Welsh Premier title-winner at Connah’s Quay, where he gained invaluable European experience in the Champions’ League and Conference League.
And as a further indicator that he should fit the bill for the Robins, in a move that is subject to FA and National League approval and international clearance, he hails from Altrincham!
Alty’s boss is in no doubt he has found the perfect candidate to fill a key role that became vacant when the consistently-outstanding Thompson left at the end of last season.
‘Ollie is a real coup,’ said Phil. ‘He is a player who has forged a name for himself at Connah’s Quay and is widely regarded as the best keeper in the League of Wales.
‘He amassed 41 starts last season, keeping 24 clean sheets as well as winning the Players’ Player of the season award. We have fought off EFL attention to get him to decide to commit his future to Altrincham FC.
‘He’s an Alty lad, and I’m sure he’ll be a huge hit here next season - we needed a top keeper to replace Tommo and I truly believe we have that man.’
Ollie joined Connah’s Quay from Stevenage in January, 2020 and helped Andy Morrison’s side clinch the first of two successive Premier titles, quickly establishing himself as first choice and taking the eye with his shot-stopping and handling and distribution with the ball at his feet.
Success on the home front brought the chance to test himself in Europe, and he played in both legs of a Champions’ League first qualifying round tie with Armenian side Alashkert last July, as a 2-2 home draw was followed by an agonising 1-0 defeat in Yerevan a week later.
The consolation was another Euro outing in the Conference League, where a Connah’s Quay team also containing former Alty right-back John Disney again suffered an aggregate defeat by a single goal, this time against Kosovo’s Prishtina.
Former Manchester City defender Morrison was full of praise for his side and insisted they would benefit from the experience of European competition, a forecast that was borne out by Ollie, whose exceptional form was one of the features of the 2021-22 campaign.
Welcome home, Ollie! It's great to see you in familiar surroundings, and best wishes for a successful time in Alty colours.