Mr Enthusiastic

It seems that Luke O’Nien is the most enthusiastic footballer of all time. Here he talks about setting in at Sunderland. “Frustration in football, you have to channel it,” O’Nien said. “If you’re not in the team there are reasons for it, either the team’s doing really well and if they’re doing that, great, or you’ve got things to work on. We have a cool team where I can speak to anybody here and they’ll say, ‘You need to do this, you need to do that.’ There are always things to be working on for me. You just have to look at the players in front of me. In training today Geads [Aiden McGeady] turned me inside out and I still don’t know where he went. I get to learn from players like that in training every day. Every week I’m getting stronger, I’m getting faster and my game’s improving. I’m in a good position because the manager keeps giving me more minutes and it’s important because coming on you either want to help maintain things or help change the game. I’ve still got a lot to do but the most important thing for me is that come Saturday five o’clock we have three points. A couple of years ago I was second-choice goalie at Wycombe. We didn’t have any goalies on the bench, so they told me I was on the bench and if the keeper went off I was in. I went, ‘Yes!’ Right-back, left-back, it doesn’t really matter to me, I know what I need to do. I did well and I got good feedback. I’ve looked at some of my footage so if we have any more injuries or anything like that the manager knows I’m ready to go.”

Luke paused for breath and went again: “It took me a while to settle in. I was speaking to the gaffer and he speaks to me every day. I think the gaffer saw I was looking to improve, willing to change. It might have taken me a little longer than people expected or hoped for but as long as you’re constantly looking to improve, that’s the most important thing. The gaffer recognised that and gave me the right information when I needed it. He told me he understood what I was going through. Everyone has their own path. He understood my path and helped me get to where I am now. I’m in a good position now where I understand what the team needs from me, what I’m doing, and I understand each position better. Hopefully in another two or three months it can only be better and better. I’ve enjoyed working under everyone here, especially the gaffer. At Wycombe I played box-to-box. I’ve come here and I’ve played more attacking. It’s important to learn all roles in midfield. When we play 4-2-3-1 you’ve got five [midfield] positions there and they’re all different. You’ve got to learn a lot for each one because they’ve all got different positioning and requirements. It took me a while to adjust to the position. Maj has played an advanced role, George – most players have played there. So it’s learning from them, watching back my footage. When I first arrived I was making runs too early and not running onto the ball. It’s a constant education of learning each position. I come on sometimes in a deeper role. I’ve been versatile. When the 60 minutes come up, some of the boys have really worked hard and it’s important for me to continue that, whether from a deeper role or an attacking role. Wherever the manager puts me, I’m ready to go.”