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Club Links: The men who have represented both Sunderland & today’s opponents Wycombe Wanderers!

Today we take on Wycombe Wanderers and, as such, we take a look at four players who pulled on the shirt of Sunderland and the Chairboys during their careers, and one manager who took charge at both clubs!

On this week's podcast we're asking where you think Martin O'Neill should look to strengthen next? Sunderland AFC

Luke O’Nien

(Wycombe Wanderers 2015-18 & Sunderland 2018-Present)

Added to the Sunderland ranks in the summer of last year, Luke O’Nien started his career at Watford.

He joined the Hornets as a nine year old and worked through the age groups, signing his first professional contract there in 2013 - eventually making his debut in a 3-0 home win to Barnsley in March 2014.

Lengthy loan spells with Wealdstone in the Isthmian Premier Division saw him gain some first-team experience where he made 40 appearances. However, after Watford were promoted to the Premier Division in 2015, O’Nien was released when his contract expired.

Wycombe Wanderers came knocking on the door that summer and O’Nien signed a one-year deal after a trial period. After over 100 appearances in three years for The Chairboys he signed for the Lads where he has sang, cooked, and played with a fantastic attitude.

Long may it continue!

Sunderland AFC

Billy Knott

(Sunderland 2011-14 & Wycombe Wanderers 2013-14)

Born in Canvey Island, Billy Knott joined the Academy of Light in 2011 as a 19-year-old after being released by Chelsea, where an incident involving a smoke grenade leading to evacuation of the Chelsea training ground may have contributed to his demise.

He would spend the next three years at Sunderland making 83 first-team appearances in that time - though only one was for Sunderland. Loan spells at AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers, Woking in the Conference and Port Vale gave Knott his introduction to professional football.

His debut for Sunderland came in an end of season game at White Hart Lane, where Paolo Di Canio threw him on as substitute for James McClean for the last twenty minutes in a 1-0 defeat.

Gareth Ainsworth took him on loan to Wycombe on an initial one-month loan deal, but this was extended twice due to the high level of his performances in those 17 games.

After Sunderland, Knott moved to Bradford making 79 appearances over two seasons before a move to Gillingham after release from his contract at The Bantams. This was followed by spells at Lincoln and Rochdale before signing for Concord Rangers, based in Canvey Island, plying his trade in National League South in the summer of 2018.

Billy Knott was on the scoresheet for Sunderland as they beat Histon 3-1.
Billy Knott in 2012.

Louis Laing

(Sunderland 2011-14 & Wycombe Wanderers 2012)

After joining the Academy of Light as a 17-year-old in 2009, Louis Laing went on to make his Sunderland debut in a 3-1 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in May 2011, when Steve Bruce sent him on to replace John Mensah for the last five minutes.

In January 2012, he joined Wycombe Wanderers on loan in League One, and that was extended after impressing. Laing would make 11 appearances for the Chairboys.

After release from his Sunderland contract in 2014, there were a number of clubs reported to have interest in his signature and he eventually signed on the dotted line for Nottingham Forest. His stay at the City Ground included loan spells at Notts County and Motherwell where he signed permanently the following summer leaving Forest without making a first team appearance.

Another loan spell at Notts County followed as did permanent transfers to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hartlepool United before Laing, 25, completed his most recent move to Blyth Spartans in the National League North in October 2018.

laing Sunderland AFC

Martin O’Neill

(Wycombe Wanderers 1990-95 & Sunderland 2011-13)

After a distinguished career as a player, Martin O’Neill built up an impressive honours list, especially with Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough where he played for ten years between 1971 and 1981.

O’Neill also played for Norwich City, Manchester City, Notts County, Chesterfield, Fulham as well as 64 international appearances for Northern Ireland, before hanging up his boots in 1985.

His management career started at Grantham Town in 1987 and following a brief spell at Shepshed Charterhouse, moved to Wycombe Wanderers in February 1990 taking The Chairboys to a fifth place finish in his first season. The following season saw Wycombe cruelly miss out on promotion to the football league on goal difference to Colchester United.

Promotion to the Football League was achieved in 1992-93 and 1993-94 ended in a second successive promotion to the third tier via the play-offs. Carrying on the incredible form of the previous two seasons the journey continued in the Division Two where they narrowly missed out on a third promotion in a row in the play-offs.

O’Neill inevitably moved on to a bigger club in the form of Norwich City in 1995 and quickly joined Leicester City the following December after falling at with the owners at Carrow Road.

Success at Leicester City and Celtic followed before a spell at Aston Villa, that could be considered a success considering the clubs current situation, ended surprisingly when he resigned in August 2010.

After almost 18 months out of the game, O’Neill was appointed Sunderland manager following the sacking of Steve Bruce, starting impressively winning four of his first six games in charge. Despite the initial positive start O’Neill’s reign didn’t keep up the momentum and he was sacked in March 2013 with the club one point above the Premier League drop zone.

Another eight months out of the game followed before he was appointed the manager of the Republic of Ireland national side, appointing Roy Keane as assistant and has recently returned to Nottingham Forest as manager in January 2019 where Roy Keane has followed again as assistant.

Martin O'Neill: Cutting a frustrated figure. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Martin O’Neill: Showing an expression to sum up his time at Sunderland. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Paul Hardyman

(Sunderland 1989-92 & Wycombe Wanderers 1995-96)

We covered Paul Hardyman in our previous edition ahead of our Bristol Rovers semi-final clash, where we covered THAT penalty, and THAT tackle, and we won the second leg, so I’m going to take any excuse to mention it again!

Hardyman made 15 appearances for Wycombe Wanderers during the 1995-96 season before retiring a year later and is currently a coach in the Southampton Academy.