Luke O'Nien has been impressed by the early pre-season work of Sunderland's new head coach Régis Le Bris ahead of starting his seventh season at the Stadium of Light.

O'Nien has become part of the furniture on Wearside after joining as part of the club's restructuring in 2018 in League One and has this week started work with his seventh permanent manager in that time after Frenchman, Le Bris, was finally named as Michael Beale's successor. 

O'Nien has had to wrestle through various challenging periods during his time with Sunderland including injury and conflicts over his positioning but now, as the club's most senior player at the age of 29, looks set to become Sunderland's new captain this summer following the exit of Corry Evans.

Le Bris met his new squad for the first time this week, including O'Nien, as preparations for the new Championship season get underway, with Le Bris under pressure to deliver an improvement on what transpired at the Stadium of Light last season. And although the Frenchman is only a week into his new role, O'Nien believes the 48-year-old former Lorient head coach has made an encouraging start. 

"He's addressed the team a couple of times," said O'Nien. "We’ve gone over a little bit of the philosophy so far - he likes it when it goes into training straight away so, even though we’re only six or seven days in, the philosophy in the way we’re playing and the style is in there straight away, which is good.

"It gives us five more weeks to learn it for the first game of the season which I think is important so that everybody knows each other’s jobs, and he’s made that very, very clear.

"It’s not just focusing on yourself, it’s focusing on every single person so we all know what each other is doing which makes, as he’s said it, 'an unpredictable game a bit more predictable.'

"It’s been really enjoyable. I’ve enjoyed working with him and the running team have also been putting us through our paces both on the grass and in the gym as well."

Luke O'Nien is preparing for his seventh season with SunderlandLuke O'Nien is preparing for his seventh season with Sunderland (Image: Ian Horrocks)



O'Nien started 43 league games last season, with his only omissions coming via suspension, and the defender is likely to continue being a key player for Sunderland this season along with Northern Ireland international Dan Ballard after the duo represented the fifth-best defensive pairing in the Championship last season when it comes to goals conceded. 

But while O'Nien is familiar with what to expect in a Sunderland pre-season schedule over the coming weeks, it's a player taking part in his first pre-season for the club, in January recruit Romaine Mundle, who has particularly impressed the defender in the first week of training. 

"The boys are looking sharp. Some boys have come back absolutely flying, they’ve been setting standards. Romaine has come back and you get a ball at his feet and he is so dangerous already so he’s making me a better defender from day one," said O'Nien.

"The boys are looking good and it’s been very enjoyable so far, they’ve worked us hard. My six years have flown by and I’m looking forward to starting my seventh season [with the club]. We’ve already caught up and heard about peoples’ summers and where to go and where not to go. It’s been nice catching up with people and getting back on the grass and getting the fitness built up.

"With the fixtures coming out as well we know what we’re working towards, which is nice," he added. "We know the first fixture, so it makes the running a little bit easier as well."

Le Bris will take charge of his first official game as Sunderland head coach with a trip to Cardiff City on August 10 in a season where O'Nien could surpass the 300-game milestone for the club should he continue to be a regular in the first team squad.