AIDEN O’BRIEN is hoping his hat-trick in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win over Blackpool will be sufficient to secure him a place in the starting line-up for Sunderland’s weekend league game against Wycombe Wanderers.

O’Brien was the star of the show as the Black Cats booked a third-round spot at Bloomfield Road, with his dramatic stoppage-time winner sealing his first treble since he scored all three goals in Millwall’s 3-1 win at Crewe back in September 2015.

He boasts four goals from two games in the Carabao Cup this season, but is yet to start a league match with Lee Johnson having tended to select Lynden Gooch and Aiden McGeady on either side of central striker Ross Stewart.

O’Brien understands why Johnson has been reluctant to change a side that has claimed three wins from four league games this term, but admits he is far from happy at having to kick his heels on the substitutes’ bench.

“You have to respect the team that is playing,” said the Irishman, who is embarking on his second season as a Sunderland player. “We are all in it together, but I’m a professional player and am eager to play.

“That’s what I’m here for and have worked all my life to do. I don’t want to sit on the bench. I don’t think anyone wants to sit on the bench, and I’m itching to get on every game because I know I can make a difference.

“I believe in myself, and I have shown that. Hopefully, I can start getting a few more minutes now, and I just want to keep scoring and helping the team as much as I can.”

O’Brien made 22 League One starts last season, scoring four goals, and can fill any of the three attacking positions in Johnson’s preferred formation.

He has held a series of frank discussions with the Black Cats head coach, who was quick to stress after Tuesday’s game that O’Brien remains a hugely important member of the first-team squad.

Johnson praised the 27-year-old’s impact last term, when he formed a successful relationship with leading scorer Charlie Wyke, and while O’Brien is clearly desperate to feature in Sunderland’s league matches, he remains respectful of his manager’s position.

“We’ve had a few chats and obviously it's confidential,” he said. “We’ve had professional chats man to man and had a few discussions.

“We’ve made the situation easy. I’m supporting the team every week whether I play or not, I’m not the type of person who will throw their toys out of the pram and I’ll always remain professional and wait.

“(Tuesday) was a night for celebration really because the last two games I haven’t played, and then I get a hat-trick. That just shows that football can change really fast. Who knows what can happen in the next game and games after? It’s a long season.”

It would have been easy for O’Brien to sulk after his lack of involvement in the previous four league games, but had he done that, he does not feel he would have been in the right mental or physical state to score three goals against a Blackpool side that won promotion from League One last season.

“I’ve been staying as sharp as I can,” he explained. “I’ve been enjoying it, smiling. We play football at the end of the day, for me it’s the best job in the world and I love it.

“For me to go into training with a sad face being upset doesn’t really make sense because as much as you want to play, you still need to realise where you are and what job you are doing.

“Look at it (at Blackpool), I could have been down for two days, not trained properly, thrown my toys out of the pram. Would I have got a hat-trick? Probably not. Because I have done it right, I can say I’ve deserved that really.”

Attention now switches to the future, with Sunderland taking on Wycombe at the weekend before heading into an international break that is supposed to feature a Papa John’s Trophy game with Manchester United Under-21s and a league game at Sheffield Wednesday, but that could yet see the Black Cats without a game if international obligations intervene.

Looking further ahead, O’Brien wants to keep his goalscoring run going, and having ended last season with six goals in all competitions, he is confident he can end the current campaign with a double-figure total.

“I always try and set double figures (as a target), although it obviously depends on game time and minutes,” he said. “I will always try and get double figures every season, especially in this league I feel I’m capable of that.”