Luke O'Nien: Why I rejected Championship interest to continue my Sunderland journey
Luke O’Nien says the desire to continue playing for Sunderland proved too strong after he rejected Championship interest to sign a new long-term deal.
O’Nien signed a new three-year contract on Monday, a process which was delayed due to the versatile midfielder being forced to isolate.
The 26-year-old has been identified as a close contact, but joined his team-mates this week to begin his preparations for the new campaign.
While expressing his disappointment at suffering another play-off defeat, O’Nien said he was determined to continue his Sunderland journey and push for more success this season.
“It was a bit of a weird off season,” O’Nien told safc.com.
“Last season didn't end how we wanted it to. We should be proud of giving it everything but we fell just short.
“The off season has been a bit of a tough period with the uncertainty. My dream was to get promoted with this club and when it didn't happen, I think my head was wanting to play Championship.
“I met with a with few managers which I'm grateful to them for and I wish them the best for next season, but while my head said Championship I think my heart wanted to continue playing for this great club.
“I'm delighted to put pen to paper.
“I've loved my time here, I've developed both as a human and as a player.
“It's an incredible place to live and play football, and I'm very grateful to the fans for trusting me and supporting me and my family in the time I've been here.
“It's something I wanted to be part of for a lot longer.”
O’Nien also outlined how detailed discussions with head coach Lee Johnson as well as the prospect of fans returning to the Stadium of Light, proved key.
“Having the fans back for that game against Lincoln, it's something I kept playing back in my head and was one of the reasons I wanted to get back here,” he said.
“I talked to the gaffer a lot during the off season and that was another big reason, hearing the plans he had for me and the plans the club have.
“That got me excited and I'm looking forward to cracking on.”