'He will never say that': Praise for Sunderland's Luke O'Nien as Cats defender discusses tactical changes after Ipswich Town win

Bailey Wright has praised Luke O’Nien’s character and adaptability after his Sunderland team-mate changed positions against Ipswich.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 8:20 am

O’Nien has predomintely played in central midfield this season but started at left-back after Dennis Cirkin was ruled out with a hernia injury – which will keep the defender sidelined until January.

After an unconvincing performance from Sunderland, O’Nien showed his value by scoring the opening goal five minutes from time when he headed home Alex Pritchard’s corner.

It was a crucial goal for the Black Cats as Lee Johnson’s side ran out 2-0 winners and ended a three-game losing run in League One.

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“That’s the beauty of Luke, he’s a good footballer and honest lad who can play multiple positions,” Wright told the Echo.

“He’ll do a job for the team and I don’t think you will ever hear a word out of his mouth that he is ever playing out of position, he will never say that.

“I think he just takes on the challenge and that’s a credit to him because I thought he did well and got his goal.

“Me and him had an interesting discussion at the set-piece, had a little dig at each other and he scored so we were both buzzing for each other.

Luke O’Nien playing for Sunderland.

“I think that is where, we talk about honesty with each other, you always want to see your mate do well.

“His adaptability has been massive for Sunderland over the last couple of seasons.”

O’Nien’s goal marked a reward for the work Sunderland have done on the training pitches at the Academy of Light, with assistant Jamie McAllister often leading the set-piece drills.

“We do a lot of work. A lot of work goes into set-pieces and it’s paid off,” added Wright.

“Not only will us lads be buzzing, but Macca who is heavily involved with set-pieces will be too. I think more than anything we are buzzing with our clean sheet because we needed it and deserved it.”

In open play Wright admits Sunderland have been forced to adapt their style in recent weeks following heavy defeats against Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday in League One.

Johnson encourages his side to play out from the back and show composure in possession, yet the Black Cats have struggled against sides who have played with physical strikers and pressed high up the pitch.

“We have evolved our game and still have our principles and our philosophy of how we want to play,” admitted Wright, who made just his fourth league start of the season against Ipswich.

“It’s all about having different tools under your belt to win different types of games against different teams, under different pressure. You have to be adaptable.

“You can’t just play, play, play. Maybe you can but teams will figure you out and it’s a game of chess sometimes.

“We have focused on not going away from what our values are and what we want to be as a team but just improving ourselves to be able to be adaptable, change and mix things up which makes it difficult for the opposition.”

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