Luke O'Nien's classy gesture to returning teammate against Millwall as contract decision looms

Luke O’Nien’s classy gesture to Corry Evans didn’t go unnoticed by Sunderland fans last weekend.
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Sunderland favourite Luke O’Nien was quick to show respect to the returning Corry Evans against Millwall on Saturday.

Sunderland were beaten 1-0 by Millwall at the Stadium of Light in the Championship last weekend but were boosted by the return of club captain Evans after the Northern Ireland international made his first appearance of the season.

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After a goalless first half, former Sunderland forward Duncan Watmore scored the game’s only goal after coming off the bench for the visitors. It means the Black Cats have gone six games without a win at home under interim head coach Mike Dodds.

Evans was brought on in the second half for Sunderland after suffering a knee ligament injury last campaign which has kept the midfielder out for a considerable amount of time. In his absence, centre-back O’Nien has captained the Black Cats. However, when Evans was brought on at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, O’Nien handed Evans the armband in a classy show of respect.

Dodds admitted he hadn't planned for Evans' return against Millwall on Saturday afternoon but believes the experienced midfielder has shown that he can play a part in Sunderland's final two Championship fixtures. Evans returned to the matchday squad after Dan Neil picked up an ankle injury in training ahead of the fixture, one which will rule him out of the final fixtures.

"Corry has been training with us for a number of weeks now, and just had one very minor setback within that," Dodds said. "In ideal circumstances, you wouldn't have to call upon him but we had to change the shape a couple of times to try and create something, to get something going. The top end of the pitch is an area where we're still trying to find solutions and more ideas to be more of a threat.

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"He's an important influence in the dressing room and I'm happy for him, it's been a long thirteen months or so for him. I didn't really want to just throw Corry on the pitch but I wanted to get more bodies up the pitch. That being said, he's looking good and I thought when he came on he did exactly what we asked of him - so I'm delighted for him. We're going to need him for the last two games."

Evans is out of contract this summer, leaving both club and player with a decision to make at the end of the campaign. Sunderland hold an option to extend Evans’ deal at the end of the season. However, the midfielder has played just one this season so far due to injury and will turn 34 in July.

Evans, who has played for Blackburn Rovers, Hull City and Carlisle United during his career, joined Sunderland in 2021, signing a two-year contract with the option for another year. Evans was part of the side that won promotion to the Championship under Alex Neil. However, the midfielder was named captain under previous boss Lee Johnson and has remained so ever since.

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