RICHARD O’Donnell will hit a personal milestone this afternoon when he steps out for his 400th career appearance.

More than a quarter of those have been in City’s goal where he is into his fourth season at the club.

O’Donnell has come a long way since the nervous 19-year-old thrown in the deep end for a senior debut on loan with Oldham against Luton in March 2008.

It was the toughest of starts – and one that he still vividly remembers.

O’Donnell, a youngster with boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday at that time, recalled the madcap nature of his move.

“I signed for Oldham on the Friday afternoon obviously too late to train with them and then drove straight to the hotel in Luton in my own car because they’d obviously already set off.

“The first time I met the players was for the meal that night.

“It was all that going on in my head. I was really nervous.

“I thought they were going to make me sing. I hadn’t spoken to these guys before and I hoped they weren’t going to make me stand up in front of them! It was horrible.

“John Sheridan was the manager and he gave me his room so I didn’t have to jump in with another lad.

“I had my own room – it was a suite with its own jacuzzi bath. I was buzzing, thinking, ‘is this what this is all about!’

“Then we were 3-0 down at half-time with 10 men so I quickly realised it wasn’t all that.”

O’Donnell spent most of the evening and following morning on his phone trying to learn the names of those around him.

“That’s what made it tough going straight in,” he admitted. “It’s hard when you don’t know who the back four are and you’re trying your best to remember their names.

“They are players you’ve never come across at all. I’ve probably played against or with them now but at the time I didn’t have a clue.”

One of the defence, Reuben Hazell, was red-carded for a professional foul and Luton were three up in 35 minutes – former Bantam Lewis Emanuel among the scorers.

O’Donnell said: “Before I knew it, I was driving back up the M1 to Sheffield.

“It was a relief afterwards to get that first game out the way. I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

“I don’t think I would have even if we’d won because I was just chucked in and didn’t have time to take it all in.

“But looking back, I was very grateful to play in the league at 19 because those loans don’t seem to come about so much anymore for young goalkeepers.”

It would be another couple of years before O’Donnell would get his chance again as he find himself on the Wednesday bench behind the “untouchable” Lee Grant.

“I could have gone off somewhere and played a few more games. But I was sat on the bench for Sheffield Wednesday, the club I supported, and it didn’t enter my head that I needed to go out and play football.

“It’s a strange period. I wouldn’t say those years were lost in my career but if I’d look back maybe I’d have had another 100 games, you never know.

“I had to be very patient, so I suppose that now when I’m not in the team, I know how to handle it better.”

His Wednesday debut, when it eventually arrived, did not run particularly smoothly either. With first-choice Nicky Weaver injured, O’Donnell was called up for a televised trip to Southampton.

"We had an 18-year-old goalkeeper on the bench and I shared a room with him,” he recalled. “But he was snoring all night and kept me awake to about 3am!

“It’s strange the things you remember.”

O’Donnell has seen plenty of managers during his time – none more so than at Valley Parade. One of those, Gary Bowyer, will be in the Salford dug-out today.

Bowyer took the keeper out of the City side during his first season but O’Donnell insists there was never a problem between them.

“Manager comes in and you have to try and change to their beliefs and ways as quick as you can. I thought I did that.

“When he pulled me out the team we were pretty much relegated and he just wanted to give Ben (Wilson) a go.

“It was fine, well obviously it wasn't because you want to play but it’s what the gaffer wanted to do and you respect it.

"He was always open and honest with me which is all I ask of people.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him in the end but that’s the way it goes sometimes and the manager takes the brunt of it.

"That shouldn’t always be the case as the players have got a lot to do with it.

“But I got on really well with him and texted him when he got the Salford job to say congratulations.”