How Luke O'Nien's neighbours might have inspired his Sunderland performance on Boxing Day

After collecting his first Sunderland clean sheet at right-back, it was perhaps a Christmas Day dinner with his neighbours that helped inspire Luke O'Nien's Boxing Day performance.
Luke O'NienLuke O'Nien
Luke O'Nien

O’Nien, who helped the Black Cats to a 1-0 win over Bradford City, put in an energetic performance as a makeshift defender to keep his side within four points of the automatic promotion places - with two games in-hand.

But of course, it wasn’t just any normal match day for O’Nien and his teammates.

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Asides from the festive spirit, Sunderland smashed the League One attendance record – welcoming a remarkable 46,039 supporters into the Stadium of Light.

“It was class,” said O’Nien.

“It’s probably one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played in because of the crowd, Boxing Day, the build-up to the game - I’ve been watching those numbers tick over on Twitter on how many fans were coming.

“I’ve been excited and to seal it with a 1-0 win, it could have been a few more but the way we finished it off and get three points for the crowd was incredible.

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“We wanted a quick turnaround because of the Portsmouth game and there was no better way to do it than doing it in front of 46,000 - it’s special.

“It’s a day I’m always going to remember and it puts us in a good position now in the table to kick on.”

O’Nien admitted himself it had taken him time to settle on Wearside following his summer move from Wycombe Wanderers.

Now, after completing back-to-back full games for the first time in his Sunderland career, the 24-year-old might have those Xmas trimmings to thank - having enjoyed Christmas Day lunch with his neighbours.

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When it was put to him that he’d had three Christmas meals, he laughed and told the club website: “It’s not true, I can only deny that!

“My neighbours were class to have me around for dinner but I think they got sick of me when I got too competitive with the board games.

“They’re very kind to me, it was a good day, I hope everyone enjoyed it and enjoyed Boxing Day.”