Luke O’Nien has been faultless in his performances this season, which has sharp led to him becoming a fans favourite and a crucial part of our team. Yet it is his infectious personality off the field and love for the club which sets him apart from the rest, and makes him the perfect candidate for a future club captain of Sunderland.
Cast your mind back when O’Nien was brought into the club by Jack Ross back in 2018. It is fair to say that it took him a little while for him to find his feet. His performances were a little erratic, and he was perhaps guilty of trying too hard. Nevertheless, he instantly bought into the ethos of the club and spirit of the community and he was a breath of fresh air at a time where the club was still recovering from back-to-back relegations and the careless attitude of players that rot the club to its core.
In my opinion, the moment I noticed a change was when O’Nien scored in a 2-0 win away at Shrewsbury Town. The sheer passion and delight he showed both when he scored and after the game celebrating with the fans illustrated just how much this club means to him. For the rest of the 2018-19 season, his versatility and ability to play at right-back and centre-midfield helped him become a staple-piece in the Sunderland team.
The thing that I have always liked about O’Nien is his consistency. Every time he plays, no matter what position he might be playing in, he always puts in a solid performance. His importance to Sunderland is epitomised by his shift to centre-back to cover the various injuries we have in that role.
The quality that he shows on the ball and in air as well as his ability to read the game has seen him put in many man of match displays in recent weeks. Moreover, the partnership that him and Sanderson have developed has been pivotal in keeping so many clean sheets and it made us question whether that should be his natural position.
This season, the captaincy has swapped between Grant Leadbitter and Max Power, with the latter of the two becoming the more suited candidate. Leadbitter is a boyhood Sunderland fan, which will always help when captain, and Power has, in recent weeks, showed that he can be a leader and seeing him lift a trophy at Wembley was a special moment in the club’s history, so I think it is only right that he continues to be captain for the remainder of the season.
Yet I believe Luke O’Nien leads by example both on the pitch through his performances and off the pitch through his love for the community. He embodies everything that the club is about and is trying to do so I think it is time that the club rewarded him with a long-term contract and made him club captain.