How Luke O'Nien found his feet at Sunderland as prepares to face his former club for the first time
Sunderland supporters judged the signing of Luke O'Nien by the reaction of his former club.
Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth said he was ‘devastated’ but ‘proud’ that a player he had so much affection for had landed such a move.
The club itself felt moved to release a statement paying tribute to his progress.
Supporters hailed his work ethic and achievements.
It reflected well on the 23-year-old and though it has taken him time, his reunion with Wycombe on Saturday will come as begins to make an impression on Wearside.
His train journey from Plymouth with supporters showed his grounded personality and on the pitch he is starting to make his presence felt.
While league starts remain elusive, his energetic cameos from the bench have been a vital part of Sunderland’s winning run and Jack Ross says he is only going to get better.
“I’m really pleased for him that he’s had such an obvious impact over the last few games, scoring, winning a penalty.,” Ross said.
“That helps because those things can’t be ignored in terms of people’s perceptions. Prior to that, within training, he had a couple of weeks where he looked much more like himself.
“Previous to that, the adjustment period had thrown him for a number of reasons. He was living away from home for the first time, there were a lot of things to take into consideration. As a manager and staff, it’s about having faith in the player.
“There will always come a point with a player where they’re not responding and you’re thinking, ‘will it happen?’ but he was always responsive and took on information,” Ross aded.
“It’s been brilliant for him. He’ll be good a player for us. It’s just an example, some players hit the ground running and some need time to adjust.
“He’s going to be an asset over the season for us and I’ve spoken often enough about having players who can grow with us, and he’s one that will get better at better. Not just this season but hopefully over the course of the next two or three years.”
After his first goal for the club at Shrewsbury last month, O’Nien said the ‘education’ he was getting at the Academy of Light was overriding any frustration at limited playing time.
“Everyone wants to play every minute, but at the same time, the opportunity I’ve got here is huge,” he said.
“I come in every day and work as hard as I can.
“Even if I’m not in the team, I’m trying to push the boys that are playing. It’s important everyone’s doing that.
“I’ve still got loads to learn, I’ve played all my games in League Two and it’s a step up. This club is huge, and it takes time to adapt.
“The minute I stop learning, I’d get more frustrated, but I’m learning every day and that’s the most important thing.”
Competition for midfield places will be severe when Wycombe visit the Stadium of Light.
Lee Cattermole is expected to be fit again and Max Power will be pushing for a recall after getting 90 minutes under his belt in the Checkatrade Trophy win at Morecambe on Tuesday night.
George Honeyman and Dylan McGeouch have performed well in the absence of that pair, leaving Ross with a big decision to make.