Luke O'Nien reflects on his darkest hour at Sunderland - and reveals the conversation that transformed his mindset

Luke O’Nien wondered if his Sunderland career was over before it had even begun.
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As he trudged off the pitch at the Academy of Light, moments after a 2-0 friendly defeat to Gateshead, the midfielder was distraught.

By his own admission, he was ‘awful’. So too were the Black Cats collectively, but for O’Nien it piled more pressure on his young shoulders after a fairly underwhelming start at the Stadium of Light.

But then came the turning point.

Luke O'Nien.Luke O'Nien.
Luke O'Nien.
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“Potts [John Potter, former first team coach] pulled me aside the next day, sat me down and said ‘Luke, you’re just over-complicating things’,” explains O’Nien.

“He was right; I remember trying to do a million and one things in my head and I thought that when I joined this club I maybe needed to be something else that I wasn’t.

“I had so much quality around me, players who had played in the Premier League and were internationals, and I thought I had to be something different.

“I was over-complicating things and he told me to stop trying to be someone else.

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“The next day, it all just registered with me and I trained the best I had ever trained. The manager even told Potts that it was the best I had trained and then a week later I got my first goal.

“That was the one bit of advice that was a turning point for me.”

It’s interventions like this, and countless others, which leaves O’Nien gushing with praise for the club’s former management team - including Potter and former chief Jack Ross.

“They were with me during my toughest time, not just here but probably in my career,” he admitted.

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“For the first time I struggled to find my feet and those are the people who not only helped me through it, but who guided me to play some of my most enjoyable football.

“When they did go, I phoned them up and went and met them just to tell them thank you because they were responsible for me having a lot of success here.

“I owe them a big thank you. It’s good to see them doing well.”