Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips believes the club must offer Luke O’Nien a new contract in the near future – but thinks the 26-year-old may depart should they falter in the play-offs.
The Black Cats are preparing for a play-off campaign after faltering in the final stage of the League One season, with the 3-1 success over Plymouth Argyle yesterday their first win in eight games.
And they go into the end of season knockout competition with the futures of some key players yet to be decided.
Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke – two key players this season for the club – have contracts up for renewal, as do the likes of Denver Hume, Max Power and Chris Maguire.
Arguably the most important player who covers lots of positions on the pitch though is O’Nien, and former European Golden Shoe winner Phillips thinks that a new deal needs to be put on the table in-front of the 26-year-old as soon as possible.
Sunderland quiz: Does the Stadium of Light have a higher or lower capacity than these 18 grounds?
“He is so versatile and Lee Johnson can always rely on him to perform no matter what position he plays him in,” Phillips told Football Insider.
He seems like a great lad in and around the dressing room as well and you need players at your football club like that. O’Nien has shown his qualities this season.
“It would not cost the world to give him a new deal so it is a no brainer for me. I’m sure there will be an offer on the table. He loves the club.
“My only worry is if Sunderland don’t go up, he might feel like he needs to play at a higher level at his age.
“There will be all sorts of scenarios in the summer if they don’t go up. If they do go up, I think they will definitely tie O’Nien down.”
There’s likely to be Championship interest in O’Nien either way – he was just named in the League One Team of the Season and for no transfer fee it would be extremely smart business for many clubs.
But you do feel as though quite a few of the expiring Sunderland contracts – namely O’Nien, Wyke and Power – rely on the club securing promotion through the play-offs.
Those players will believe they deserve a shot at the second tier of English football and in O’Nien’s case, a player who can play at right-back, centre-back, central midfield and wing-back will be incredibly useful to a lot of sides, so he’s bound to have a big decision to make this summer.