RR: Phil - as someone who has commentated on virtually the entirety of Luke O’Nien’s professional career, what can you tell us about the young midfielder?
PC: He’s been the heartbeat of the Wycombe team since breaking into the side three years ago - a tenacious team player with the most incredible engine, who gives absolutely everything to the cause and has the added bonus of being able to score goals too.
He always has a smile on his face and appears to never stop training, with the Chairboys coaching staff admitting that it’s always a challenge to get him to rest.
RR: Most Sunderland fans are speculating that O’Nien has been signed as competition or as a replacement for Lee Cattermole as the ball-winner in the Sunderland midfield. Is this a role you could envision him playing?
PC: He’s the sort of character who does exactly what he is told to the letter for the good of the team, and if you asked him to sweep the stands after the game he’d do it.
Luke never shirks a challenge and he is more than capable of playing the role you describe, despite not possessing a nasty streak. I have often watched him destroy opponents both physically and mentally over the course of 90 minutes.
RR: You were gushing about O’Nien and in particular his professionalism, mentality and character on Twitter on Friday. What is it that separates him from other players you’ve come across in the Football League?
PC: Luke is a relentlessly positive character who just loves to train and play football. He came up through the youth ranks at Watford but wasn’t really given a chance before being released, and instead of letting this huge disappointment define him, I think it’s what drives Luke on.
That takes tremendous character and mental strength. He is also learning the piano and another language as he believes that it will help his football. I’ve never met another professional player who has told me that.
RR: One thing Sunderland have lacked in the spine of our team in the past two seasons is physicality and toughness. Can O’Nien help us in this department?
PC: 100%. He doesn’t know when he is beaten and he will get stuck in, with the added bonus of being able to play too.
RR: What are Luke’s main strengths and weaknesses as a footballer?
PC: Strengths - incredible work rate, two footed, scores all sorts of goals, physically and mentally tough. Weaknesses - Can sometimes get a bit exuberant in his antics to try and con the referee. Wycombe love a set piece so this may be under instruction.
RR: Sunderland are trying to achieve two goals in this transfer window - signing players for the short-term and helping the team win promotion this season, and signing players for the long haul who could hopefully compete at Championship level. Based on his performances at Adams Park, do you believe O’Nien can do both?
PC: Absolutely. Aged 23, Luke has notched up over 100 appearances for Wycombe, and he now has a great platform to really kick on. I fully expect to see Luke continue to flourish for Sunderland in the Championship next season.
RR: Finally, lots of players have used Wycombe Wanderers as a launching pad for success at a higher level such as: Alfie Mawson, Jordan Ibe and Eberechi Eze. Where does O’Nien rank in comparison to other former Wycombe stars? What’s his ceiling in your eyes?
PC: Luke is not as technically gifted as Jordan and Eze but smashes through supposed boundaries by working harder than everybody else. Of course, that can only get you to a certain point in the game, but I wouldn’t rule out seeing him play in the top flight at some stage.
You have a real diamond and I am supremely confident that Luke will fast become a fans favourite at Sunderland. Everyone at Wycombe loves him to bits and will doubtless keep a close eye on his career. Look after him!