How Sunderland's Luke O'Nien has made the transition to right-back and is still looking to improve

Sunderland's Luke O'Nien won two penalties from right-back against Gillingham on Tuesday night.
Sunderland's Luke O'Nien won two penalties from right-back against Gillingham on Tuesday night.
0
Have your say

Luke O'Nien has hardly put a foot wrong since stepping in at right-back late last year - yet the Sunderland man is always looking at ways to improve his game.

The 24-year-old was originally signed as a midfielder, after joining the Black Cats from Wycombe last summer, but struggled to nail down a place in his natural position.

O'Nien, now a popular figure on Wearside, only become a first-team regular in December when he was thrown into the vacant full-back berth at Portsmouth, following an injury to Adam Matthews.

Since then O'Nien has started 10 of Sunderland's 12 league games on the right side of defence, a position he's becoming more familiar with each week.

"I've enjoyed it, with the quality of the players I have in front of me they make it very easy for me," O'Nien told SAFC.com when asked about his new role.

"Whatever position you play you've got to make the best decisions so it's all about making the right calls at the right time.

"From where I started to where I am now, I'm always looking to improve, I look over my footage with the staff here to highlight the decisions that could be better.

"I've got good people around me helping me improve, it's been slightly different for me but not too much because it's just about adapting your decision-making to a slightly different position."

Despite moving into defence, O'Nien knows he must also provide an attacking outlet and take advantage of the space in front of him.

That was evident in the 4-2 win over Gillingham on Tuesday night, when O'Nien won two penalties which ultimately earned his side the win.

"The stage at which the penalties came was important," added O'Nien. "Being 2-2 to make it 3-2 and then get the breathing gap to 4-2."

"For the first one I saw the cross coming in from Jamo (Reece James) and managed to get in front of him (Wigan midfielder Leonardo Da Silva Lopes who committed the foul).

"Gooch and Geeds (Aiden McGeady) were in front of me for the second one and they managed to put me in a good position.

"Having the players around me with such quality it enables me to get forward into attacking positions, I just make the runs and the attacking players put in some great balls for me."