The first of our new signings this season is Republic of Ireland international and former Millwall front man, Aiden O'Brien who signed for us on a free transfer after his contract with his boyhood club expired in the summer.
The 26 year old Islington born winger has only ever had one permanent club before making the move to Wearside and that being Millwall where he appeared 250 times for the Lions competitively, netting 47 times in league and cup. O’Brien has enjoyed loan spells away from The Den before but they were short term deals with lower league clubs such as Staines Town, Hayes and Yeading United, Crawley Town, Aldershot and Torquay United, but since 2014 has been a regular starter for the South London team. During his decade as a professional player at Millwall, he helped guide them to a League 1 play-off victory at Wembley in 2017 although he was subbed off after 70 minutes for Shane Ferguson, Steve Morrison’s late winner saw a return to the second tier for O’Brien and Millwall.
A versatile player who can play on either wings or up front, he is sure to be an asset this season for Sunderland and Phil Parkinson, he’ll certainly provide plenty competition for Chris Maguire, Lynden Gooch. Not only is he an accomplished Championship winger, he has represented the Republic of Ireland at every level internationally from under 17 to the first team; he hit five goals for Ireland under 21s team which is two short of the goal scoring record set by Robbie Brady. He made the first full Ireland squad in September 2017 for the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Wales, eventually making his debut in a friendly against Poland that same month, scoring his only senior international goal to date. He recently starred in a 1-0 win in Dublin against Georgia in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
On arrival at the Academy of Light, the front man said “It feels terrific to be a Sunderland player. This is a massive club and I just can’t wait to get going. I love scoring goals, it’s what I live for and hopefully I can bring plenty to the team. I can’t express how excited I am, and I can’t wait to show the fans and my teammates what I’m made of. It feels terrific to be a Sunderland player. This is a massive club and I just can’t wait to get going. I love scoring goals, it’s what I live for and hopefully I can bring plenty to the team. I can’t express how excited I am, and I can’t wait to show the fans and my team-mates what I’m made of.”
Gaffer, Phil Parkinson added when asked by the press, “I’m really pleased with the signing of Aiden, he’s at a good age, he has experience of winning this division and he has played plenty of Championship football. Aiden can also play in a variety of attacking roles, which I feel is important for us. We are delighted to welcome him to the club, and we are looking forward to working with him.”
The former Millwall man impressed former Sunderland boss Martin O’Neil also with the Northern Irishman saying how he “thought O'Brien did exceptionally well in a position that he doesn't play regularly But I could never have envisaged him having a problem with it. I thought he was strong; I thought his enthusiasm was great and he gave us a little bit of energy" following his debut goal in that 1-1 draw in Wroclaw. O’Brien says that his idol and footballing hero was Dutch wizard Dennis Bergkamp as well as saying that the experience of playing under Roy Keane (who was O’Neil’s number 2) for Ireland was “every kid’s dream”.