Sunderland's Luke O'Nien looks ahead to Charlton final and explains why Wembley heartache could be key
Luke O'Nien believes playing at Wembley earlier this season can help him produce a big performance against Charlton Athletic next Sunday.
Charlton boss Lee Bowyer said on Friday night that he felt Sunderland's narrow defeat to Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Final would give them a slight advantage next weekend.
Speaking before Charltons second-leg win over Doncaster Rovers, O'Nien admitted that the experience could work in his favour.
"It will be special, but we’re not going there just to enjoy it, we’re going there to win it," O'Nien said.
"Hopefully, we can go one better this time.
“I think we can take a lot of experience from being at Wembley. It’s something that we’ve got on our side. If you haven’t been there before, you try to enjoy it, but you learn a lot from the emotion of the whole occasion, let alone playing there. I think having been there already this season is going to be an advantage to us, but it’s a cup final and anything can happen.
“You’re going into a game against a team you’ve already played twice this season, so may the best team win," he added.
“I had a little few nerves when I first went to Wembley because it’s somewhere where I always wanted to play, so hopefully I can use that. Nerves are a good thing – they show you’re ready for it and excited. Hopefully, I can use that in the right way and hopefully we can do a good job there.”
O'Nien has gone on a remarkable journey since the two sides met on the opening day of the season, when the midfielder was subbed off at half time as Jack Ross turned the game around.
His appearances after that were rarely regular but in the second half of th eseason he has established himself as an absolutely vital player at right-back.
Charlton will pose a major challenge but the 24-year-old is hoping to sign off an encouraging campaign with promotion.
“It’s been a special season," he said.
"A lot of people have looked after me here and helped me develop. When I step out on that pitch, I make sure I give it my all because a lot of people have helped me get to this stage. I’ve enjoyed it, and to top it off with a win would just make it the perfect season.
“The gaffer and his staff always speak to me and tell me what I need to do to improve, and that’s what I want. We’ll be looking back over the footage of the last game, seeing where we can improve, and then we’ll look forward to the final."