When he arrived back in the summer of 2018, it’s fair to say that few of us knew what to expect from Luke O’Nien.
As a young man looking to make a step up in the footballing world, he was one of many new faces to sign up for Sunderland’s first third tier campaign in thirty years, and his story in red and white has been one of highs and lows, and taking the rough with the smooth.
However, through it all, he’s never given less than 100% for the shirt, his teammates, or the fans, and the film released by the club, which chronicles his Sunderland story, only adds to what we’ve come to know: that O’Nien is a sound guy, footballer and man.
The candid video shows O’Nien talking from inside his car and from various locations in and around the Stadium of Light.
It’s a casual and honest insight from a man who decided to call Wearside his home almost five years ago, and one of the best examples of his great attitude to his job is shown when he talks about being unable to get into the team following the start of the 2018/2019 season.
This situation is something which many footballers in similar circumstances wouldn’t respond to so positively, but instead of sulking and possibly regretting the move, he talks about how he worked hard so that when his time came, he was ready.
It’s this work ethic which has made him a vital part of the squad for the past five seasons.
The way he talks about the club, the stadium and the fans is overwhelmingly positive, and this love of the club and area is reflected in his game and also his personality.
I can fully get behind this way of getting the players’ thoughts and feelings across to fans in relatively short segments, because for too long, it felt as though we had players who thought of themselves as being above interacting with fans.
This current crop is different and if this is a regular feature, it feels fitting to have started it with O’Nien.
The idea was simple and it gave us a bit more of an insight into how O’Nien has found his stay on Wearside. It also seems like a good opportunity for the club to take, and to talk to this group of players in particular about their move to the club and what they love about being here.
There are few players in the modern game at the top level who have such a clear love for the club they play for, but this feature with O’Nien has added to this idea that the former Wycombe man feels right at home on Wearside.
The feelgood factor around the club will carry us into the summer and the new campaign, regardless of where we finish on Bank Holiday Monday. In my view, getting to know the players who’ve helped to bring back this positive vibe can only be a good thing.