Sunderland boss Jack Ross discusses Luke O'Nien's new role and Blackpool team selection

Luke O'Nien in action against Shrewsbury.
Luke O'Nien in action against Shrewsbury.

Jack Ross has been thrilled with Luke O'Nien's application at right back but still sees his long-term position being in midfield.

Injuries to Adam Matthews and Donald Love left Ross shot of options with Tom Flanagan now a key central defender.

O'Nien has thrived in the new role, scoring at Portsmouth and impressing against both Bradford and Shrewsbury.

There is every chance he could reprise the role at Blackpool on New Year's Day.

"I like him a lot, he looked a bit leggy but as the game wore on he did fine," Ross said.

“He has been a major bonus for me in that respect, with Adam injured and Donald out long term.

“It was a problem for me as I didn’t have another natural right back at the club.

“Playing either Reece or Bryan there on the wrong side is not ideal, you saw that at Accrington.

“It is very obvious but he applies himself in every position he is asked to play.

“It is another string to his bow.

“He is an asset to us in the middle of the park and will be but with Adam being out he certainly helps me out.”

Ross named an unchanged team for the visit of Shrewsbury Town but is unlikely to do so again this afternoon.

“It is a game we were always likely to do that irrespective of whether this was a win, loss or draw," Ross said.

“It was the one we’d need to freshen it up, away from home as well and I don’t think the surface is great there at the moment, we need to pick a team that will help us win the game.

“A bit of freshness will help us. For every team in the league it is a challenging period.”

It will be another bumper travelling support for the Black Cats at Bloomfield Road, who are likely to comfortably outnumber the home support.

Ross says it is another 'exciting' game to be involved in but admits it will brings its own challenges.

"It is remarkable and exciting and a privilege to be involved in it at a club that has that," Ross said.

“It also brings unique pressures in this division that we face every single week, with the expectation on our shoulders.

“When you look at the team there are not that many that have played above League One, people think they have but in reality it is not, the team that plays regularly.

“For them to be able to handle this new pressure, they have handled it pretty well, not perfect but I do think there is a lot more that deserve more credit, having this new challenge upon their shoulders," Ross added.

“Boxing Day just emphasised that about the size of this club, it is brilliant and I would never complain about it at all but it does bring a unique aspect of every single one of our games and the opposition as well, we have seen that time after time.

“No game have I stepped away and thought that was nice and easy!

“New Year’s Day will be the same.”