Sunderland AFC news: 'Toxic faction' hindered 'busy' Luke O'Nien claims former Black Cats coach

Former coach David Preece has offered interesting insight in to Sunderland's past dressing rooms.

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Luke O'Nien was hindered during his early days at Sunderland... that's the view of former Black Cats player and coach David Preece ahead of Tuesday's play-off semi-final second leg against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

O'Nien joined Sunderland back in 2018 and has cemented himself as a fans' favourite for his brilliant brand of professionalism, passion and versatility.

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However, the atmosphere amongst the players at Sunderland was not always conducive for a character such as O'Nien's to thrive at the Stadium of Light with ex-goalkeeping coach Preece stating there was a "toxic faction in the dressing room" before his arrival last season.

Preece, a former Sunderland player, returned to the club last campaign and took the role of goalkeeping coach as the Black Cats were finally promoted from League One under Alex Neil after four long seasons before leaving after the club's Championship status was secured.

Sunderland are 2-1 up from the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals at home and are now just 90 minutes away from Wembley with O'Nien set to start at Kenilworth Road. Talk on the Wise Men Say podcast turned towards the defender and how much he had improved since his arrival at the club.

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"Do you know what it is? One of the main reasons him being able to do that (improve as a player) is the dressing room itself because, maybe not so much in my time, but speaking to people about the previous couple of seasons in League One, there was probably a bit of a toxic faction in the dressing room," Preece told Wise Men Say.

"And that inhibits people and I think somebody like Luke O'Nien is a perfect example. Someone like him coming in the dressing room who is the way that he is, so positive and wants to do everything right and wants to improve to a point where he's got so much going on that he's trying to improve that if something does work you don't know what it is!

"Whether it is to do with his sleep or any kind of new fitness thing he can look at to make him fitter. Sometimes people like that can be inhibited by other characters because they are seen as being 'busy'. I think that was a bit of a nickname for him when he first came in. And I think he has spoken about that on his Instagram.

"I think once you have an atmosphere and environment where players are coming into and it's so much easier for them to be included and it's an inclusive atmosphere it is so much easier for these younger players to come and express themselves and especially train.

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"Not saying people don't strive towards high standards but sometimes somebody who is moaning is just moaning, they're not trying to make someone better and once you've got characters like that away from the club and you've just got players who generally want to do well and try and push each other, this (team) is exactly what you get right now."