Luke O’Nien has claimed the top spot of the Roker Report Power Rankings after our Christmas contests against Portsmouth and Bradford City.
The 24-year-old performed admirably in both games, acting as an auxiliary right-back with first-teamers Adam Matthews and Donald Love out injured. His tenacity and energy impressed the bumper crowd in our tense clash with Bradford, with O’Nien earning the Man of the Match award.
O’Nien endured more hairy moments against league-leaders Portsmouth and their in-form winger, Ronan Curtis, but even on a tough day at the office O’Nien scored Sunderland’s solitary goal at Fratton Park.
Aiden McGeady falls just one spot after dominating the Power Rankings in December, remaining in the top three at second. The Republic of Ireland international scored the winner in our Boxing Day showdown with Bradford, and was the pick of our attackers in a tough afternoon down in Portsmouth.
Jack Baldwin enters the top three for the first time since September after two impressive displays at the heart of the Sunderland defence. He handled the unique challenge of marking the man mountain that is Oliver Hawkins at Fratton Park and played with greater discipline and awareness than we’ve seen from him in recent months against the Bantams.
Two Power Rankings favourites suffered further falls from grace this week. Chris Maguire’s slump continues, with the forward less suited to impacting games from the bench and lacking in sharpness in his most recent start versus Bradford.
After a period of sustained excellence, Jon McLaughlin has also fallen. The 31-year-old was beaten far too easily for Portsmouth’s second and got away with a howler that was worthy of last season against Bradford. Thankfully, the officials somehow failed to realise McLaughlin had spilled Jack Payne’s daisy-cutter over the line - regardless, his shaky performances drop him to 15th.
1: Luke O’Nien (10) - Top of the charts for the first time, the lovable midfielder has spent a majority of the season outside the top ten, but deserves his week as champion after two tenacious performances.
2: Aiden McGeady (1) - In the top two for a fourth straight week, McGeady might just be elbowing his way into early Player of the Season discussions.
3: Jack Baldwin (12) - Back to his absolute best just when Sunderland really needed him, it’s a shame his brilliant job on Hawkins was mostly overlooked due to Glenn Loovens’ red card in the same game.
4: Max Power (SR) - Hasn’t quite had the transformative effect on the team many hoped for, but he remains at #4 after two steady performances.
5: Josh Maja (SR) - Remains at #5 after linking-up well with other Black Cat attackers in Sunderland’s win over Bradford. He was badly missed in the defeat at Portsmouth.
6: Lee Cattermole (15) - Returns to the top ten despite not quite re-finding his best form after injury. Cattermole’s tackling was excellent against Portsmouth but his distribution was substandard, and he looked sluggish in the Bradford victory.
7: Lynden Gooch (SR) - Stays at #7 after two industrious performances that lacked end product. Despite his attacking struggles, the American’s work-rate and hard-running when Sunderland went a man down at Portsmouth deserves a lot praise.
8: George Honeyman (3) - Slips out of the top 5 after a quiet performance against Portsmouth, and an ankle injury kept him out of our record-breaking win against Bradford.
9: Reece James (10) - Back in the top ten despite being dropped for the Bradford clash. James defended well against Portsmouth and, like Baldwin, was unlucky our other destroyers weren’t up to the challenge.
10: Tom Flanagan (13) - Creeps back into the top ten after playing his part in helping the Wearsiders keep a clean sheet against Bradford, he was badly missed in our top of the table clash.
11: Bryan Oviedo (8) - Drops out of the top ten after failing to provide the attacking thrust he was brought into the team to give in our Boxing Day match-up.
12: Duncan Watmore (16) - Week two as an active player and Watmore is already pushing for a place in the top ten. Although he struggled away at Portsmouth, he sparkled in a short cameo against Bradford.
13: Adam Matthews (2) - Missed both games through injury and is one of our big fallers this week as a result.
14: Chris Maguire (9) - It’s just not quite happening for Maguire - his first touch keeps on evading him and his decision-making has been subpar in recent weeks. We need the old ‘King’ back, and fast!
15: Jon McLaughlin (6) - A rare week outside the top ten for McLaughlin, who fell short of the high standards he’s set for himself in both games.
16: Dylan McGeouch (SR) - Made the briefest of appearances against Bradford but didn’t do enough to rise back into the top 15.
17: Charlie Wyke (24) - Back after three months out injured and back into our top 20 after a brief appearance from the bench at the Stadium of Light - hopefully he’ll add a new dimension to our attack in the second half of the season.
18: Bali Mumba (17) - Missed our matchday squad for both fixtures, but remains in the top 20 due to poor performances from some of those were involved at Fratton Park.
19: Jerome Sinclair (SR) - Brought on to add energy to the Black Cats’ attack at 3-1 down against Pompey; unfortunately he had little impact.
20: Glenn Loovens (18) - The villain of our League One top-of-the-table clash - unfortunately the Dutchman just doesn’t seem physically capable of playing at this level anymore.
21: Alim Ozturk 22: Robbin Ruiter 23: Denver Hume 24: Benji Kimpioka 25: Jack Bainbridge 26: Ethan Robson 27: Donald Love 28: Jack Diamond 29: Jake Hackett 30: Lee Connelly 31: Brandon Taylor 32: Jordan Hunter 33: Daniel Neil