Luke O'Nien reveals the brilliant gesture he has made to Sunderland's talented youngsters
Luke O’Nien has revealed the brilliant way he is helping to nurture the next generation of footballers at the Academy of Light.
The Sunderland regular, speaking in the club’s match day programme, has opened up on the mentoring scheme he has helped to establish – which sees first-team players share their experiences with some of the under-18 squad.
Explaining the programme, O’Nien said: “I sat down with some of the staff from the academy and thought that as we’re in a privileged position to play football for a living and play for this club, it’s important to give something back in return.
“Take any player from the Sunderland first-team squad, there is a lot of knowledge and life lessons in there which is wasted if they don’t pass it on.
“The youth set-up here is really fantastic and I feel it’s vital we pass on our experiences and life lessons to the young players coming through, because it’s not easy to make it.
“The stats are always against the youngsters progressing, but if we can pass on little bits of knowledge to help them improve or even help them come through tough situations, then that’s what we want to do. It’s our duty to help them.”
And it isn’t just O’Nien who has thrown himself into the scheme.
Jordan Willis also takes a lead on the sessions, with the Sunderland wing-back believing Willis’ EFL experience can prove key to the next crop of Sunderland youngsters.
“Myself and Jordan lead on it,” added O’Nien.
“We sit down every Thursday with a couple of players from the Under-18s squad and talk about all types of things.
“We talk about their life, what’s going on at home and at work.
“Willis has played over 200 league games and it’s great to hear him talk about challenging times in his life.
“We both try to open up and be completely honest about our experiences, because I feel that helps the youngster reciprocate it and talk about their emotions more openly too.
“It’s important to have interaction with the youngsters because it was something I never had when I came through.”