GIVEN the affluent surroundings he has become accustomed to in the bosom of one of the world’s most lavish and extravagant football clubs, there are no airs and graces about Billy O’Brien.

Standing amid stacks of bibs, cones and balls as the Renfrewshire wind rattles against St Mirren’s Ralston training ground, the club’s newest recruit seems not just at ease, but stimulated by the relatively modest habitat he will be calling home until May. And maybe even beyond.

Brought through the Manchester City youth ranks from the age of 10, the young goalkeeper has gravitated up the pecking order at the Etihad to the periphery of Pep Guardiola’s star-studded first team.

Now faced with what he feels is a glass ceiling, O’Brien is content peering through it towards a future he hopes is paved with different sorts of riches.

“It’s vital for my career,” he said on his move to St Mirren on loan. “I’ve been at City now for a long time playing reserve team football. It’s good for minutes but as far as competitiveness, it does nothing for you. It’s a little bit fake.

“Getting first-team football is important. Personally, I’m someone who loves the fight of it. Where I am today is through grafting and it really interested me to come here and help the club get out of the position that they shouldn’t be in. I’ll fight my hardest for St Mirren.

“I’ve climbed the ladder as high as I go. Even if I did have the option to stay, it would be hard to turn down, but the main thing is to play competitive games. I can’t get that there now.”

He may be sceptical about his place in the City first team going forward, but it hasn’t stopped the Welsh U21 shot stopper from taking the positives from a decade yearning to play for his boyhood heroes.

O’Brien was taken away with the first-team on their pre-season tour and has had sampled a flavour of the big occasion, most crucially as part of the squad that travelled to Glasgow back in September to draw 3-3 with Celtic in the Champions League.

“I travelled up here for the Celtic game. The only thing I can say is that it was unbelievable,” he said. “Apart from the QPR game when we won the league [in 2012] it’s the best football game I’ve ever been in and around.

“I was the No.3 keeper but I was in the dressing room and in and around the boys. It was a great experience. Just to be in the crowd was incredible.

“I’m a life-long City fan so it was always a dream to play every day with the first team. I was away with them on pre-season as well. I could never have seen myself doing that five years ago, I was travelling around with one of the best teams in the world.

“On the reverse of it, it’s time to move on. I’ve been there a long time and it is right I get out now to the real world of football where everything isn’t pretty or the way it is there.”

A hero of O’Brien’s is forgotten City goalkeeper Joe Hart, now on loan at Torino. The England No.1 has been a mentor for the man who grabbed a clean sheet on his debut during St Mirren’s 2-0 win away to Dundee in the Scottish Cup on Saturday.

He admits Hart has not yet been in touch, but that he is always on the end of the line if he needs any guidance steering the Paisley club away from the Ladbrokes Championship bottom spot.

O’Brien said: “I looked up to Joe Hart. I’ve worked with him quite a bit and he’s a great guy. He’s a guy I feel that I could speak to, I could phone him any night to get advice from him.

“The last time I spoke to Joe was when he left for Torino. I wished him all the best and he said the same, so I’ve been keeping up to date on his games.”

He added: “I’m looking long term now. I need to try and secure a future going forward. St Mirren are a huge club in Scotland and they have welcomed me so greatly. The fans were terrific on Saturday.

“Personally, this is my club now. I’m not a Manchester City player, I’m a St Mirren player in my eyes. This is my battle now. Hopefully we can stay up and maybe long term I can sort something out here.

“My No.1 goal is to keep St Mirren up.”