Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips has paid a glowing tribute to the attitude of Black Cats utility man Luke O’Nien, while tipping him to win the club’s Player of the Year award this season.
O’Nien has been heavily involved for Sunderland throughout the course of the campaign, making 43 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring four goals and providing five assists to help Phil Parkinson’s side to seventh in the current League One standings, only outside the play-off places on goal difference.
It also seems as though the 25-year-old is making a positive impression behind the scenes with his work in training, judging by the latest comments from Phillips.
Speaking to Football Insider about who his vote for Sunderland’s Player of the Year would go to, Phillips – who made 235 appearances and scored 130 goals for the Black Cats between 2000 and 2006 – said: “I would have to say O’Nien. He has probably been the most consistent performer.
“The keeper has been good as well, pulled off some crucial saves but O’Nien for his versatility. He has that never-say-die attitude and just keeps going.”
Revealing what he has heard about O’Nien in training, and how that has impacted his view of the midfielder, Phillips continued: “From what I gather, he is first in the stadium and last out and is the same on the training pitch. That does not automatically give you Player of the Season but I like his attitude.
“I know Gooch and Maguire have come good of late but in the early part of the season, they were not effective. I would probably say O’Nien.”
O’Nien is currently in the final few months of his contract with Sunderland, although the club do have the option of extending that deal by a further 12 months, something which they are expected to do.
I do think Phillips has a point here.
O’Nien has certainly been an influential player for Sunderland throughout the course of the campaign, so that alone ought to put him right up there in contention for that award.
Add to that the work rate he has demonstrated – highlighting his commitment to the club as well as his ability – and it does appear as though he would be a popular choice for this sort of recognition come the end of the campaign.
With that in mind, it certainly seems as though the club’s decision to take up the option of extending his contract by a further 12 months, will be a sensible and popular one all-round.