A FOOTBALLER from West Kilbride made his first team debut for Charlton Athletic last night, August 31, little over 24 hours after playing for their under 21s.

Harris O'Connor started for the Addicks last night as they stormed to victory in their Papa John's Trophy match against Gillingham.

The London-based side cruised to a 3-0 win at The Valley, with O'Connor playing 67 minutes of the match before being substituted by manager Ben Garner.

It was a long awaited debut for the 20-year-old, who grew up in England before moving to West Kilbride.

O'Connor appeared on the bench once in the same competition last year but was an unused substitute.

Speaking to Charlton TV after the match, the youngster admitted he hadn't expected the late call-up to the first team - having turned out for the club's under-21s in a 2-1 win over Coventry City only the previous day.

He said: “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, the last few days.

"Obviously I was disappointed in the first place not to be involved tonight - then to get that call yesterday was unbelievable.

“Then to come in tonight, not know if I was starting or not, then to find out (I was), adrenaline was pumping through me.”

It was a solid performance from the young defender, who played at right back, keeping that all important clean sheet - though he did express his annoyance that fellow debutant Daniel Kanu was unable to get him an assist after a marauding run up the right wing.

O'Connor continued: “It’s a completely different experience to under 21s football, with the fans and the pressure of the manager watching you.

“I’m happy with my performance, but Daki (Daniel Kanu) should have got on the end of one of my crosses.”

He says he now hopes to kick on and become a regular fixture in the first team side.

The youngster added: “We’re always pushing to break through into the first team, so that’s the end goal.

"We’ve just got to keep doing the right things, stay patient, and hopefully that opportunity is going to come.”

O'Connor started his footballing career with the south-east London club before moving north of the border in 2014.

He was then snapped up by Kilmarnock, and appeared for Scotland’s youth development teams alongside Scotland star Billy Gilmour.

He then signed pro-terms with Rangers, but was released in 2021, before returning to Charlton as a member of the League One club's under-23 squad.

Charlton announced in May this year that he would be extending his stay at the club.

O'Connor spoke to the Herald at the time of his contract extension, which coincided with a change in management, and said then of his first team ambitions.

He commented: “With the manager coming in, I see it as another opportunity to impress.

“Johnnie Jackson gave me opportunities to train with the first team, as well as naming me as one of the 18 in the EFL Trophy.

“I think the main difference between Rangers and Charlton is the amount of players in recent years who have come through the academy to have successful careers at the top level at Charlton.

“The opportunity is definitely there with the club trusting youth season after season.

"Charlton is the right place for me to develop and push forward.”