Luke O’Nien has taken the captain’s armband in pre-season and is relishing the role he now occupies as a senior player, the 26-year-old told the Sunderland Echo.
It has been a turbulent few years for O’Nien at the Stadium of Light. He is now entering his fourth season, having made 139 appearances in seven different positions.
The versatile full back has been looking to set high standards on the training ground.
He said: “I understand the demands from the fans to give your all for the club, and I think it’s important for all the senior players to help one another, help the young players settle in.
“Everyone needs a pull in the right direction, even just setting the standards in training.”
With two seasons ending in play-off disappointment and the other cut short by coronavirus, O’Nien is well versed in the recent trials and tribulations at Sunderland. Thrusting him into a position to, despite still only being 26 years of age, pass on his experience and knowhow to the up and coming members of the squad.
Manchester City loanee Callum Doyle and fellow youngsters Elliot Embleton and Jack Diamond have impressed in the build up to the upcoming campaign, O’Nien was enthused by their performances.
He continued: “We had a good trip away in Scotland and I think what’s clear is how well the young players have done. You’ve got Callum coming through at the back.
“He’s been brilliant but we can’t get too carried away. It’s important he keeps building and looking the part like he is. It’s our job to help him and it’s his job to keep doing what he’s doing and make sure he gets that starting shirt.
“You’ve got Dan Neil in the middle, Jack Diamond is looking sharp and all the young boys are doing really, really well.”
O’Nien has been linked with a host of Championship clubs in recent years and for good reason, but it seems he is well settled with the Black Cats and determined to make the step up with them. Lee Johnson’s men are amongst the favourites to earn promotion. However the spending sprees of recently taken over clubs like Wigan Athletic and Ipswich Town mean it is shaping up to be a very exciting promotion race.
They play host to the Latics on the opening day of the campaign, a perfect opportunity to harness the support from the stands and get one over a rival, with recent outgoing players Charlie Wyke and Max Power likely to line up against them.