With David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville, John O’Kane was part of the illustrious Manchester United team that lifted the 1992 FA Youth Cup. Yet while his team mates went on to gain international recognition, the right back found first team opportunities nearly impossible to come by at Old Trafford. In January 1998, Howard Kendall took the right back on a weeks trial, but after just two days was sufficiently convinced that he could cut it as an Everton player.
The £400,000 signing went straight into one of the worst Everton teams in history. While clearly lacking experience, there was obvious potential within O’Kane. Naturally athletic, comfortable on the ball and possessing intelligent distribution, O’Kane bore all the hallmarks of a player tutored by Alex Ferguson. Despite the turmoil of the closing months of the 1997/98 season, O’Kane never seemed overawed by the mess he had found Everton in.
This gradual progress was brought to an abrupt halt by Walter Smith, who became manager in July 1998. As part of his bizarre defensive permutations, Smith preferred playing centre backs or midfielders in the full back berth. After slipping behind Alec Cleland and Mitch Ward in the pecking order, the arrival of David Weir in February 1999 effectively spelt the death knell of O’Kane’s Everton career. One month later, O’Kane made his final appearance in the right of midfield against Manchester United: it was, ironically, after seven years a United player, his first Premier League game at Old Trafford.
In December 1999, O’Kane joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. There was a spell at Blackpool before he slipped out of league football.