AIDEN O’BRIEN expects Sunderland’s senior players to perform a crucial role this season, and claims the club’s talented youngsters will inevitably need some guidance at various stages of the campaign.

Lee Johnson signed nine players during the summer, and six of the new arrivals were aged 22 or under, with the vast majority having little or no experience of regular senior football.

Thorben Hoffman and Leon Dajaku had predominantly been playing reserve-team football in Germany prior to their arrival in England, while Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin, Frederik Alves and Niall Huggins were all part of Premier League development squads prior to moving to Wearside.

Doyle in particular has made a superb start to life at Sunderland, but reflecting on his own experiences as a youngster, O’Brien fully expects his new team-mates to have plenty of ups and downs during their maiden season on the senior stage.

“I think they (the youngsters) have all been brilliant,” said the 27-year-old, who scored a Carabao Cup hat-trick at Blackpool on his most recent start. “They have all stepped up and I feel like it’s just refreshing. They all want to impress, they all want to get better and it’s about the balance.

“For me personally, though, I don’t think you can have a full squad of young players. When you have a balance of senior and young, I think that’s the perfect mix. It’s just a great balance and we have senior players and younger players here.”

O’Brien almost left the Stadium of Light on deadline day, with a proposed loan move to Doncaster Rovers only breaking down because of issues over paperwork.

It remains to be seen whether there will be an attempt to resurrect the move in January, but for now, O’Brien will be focusing on battling for a first-team place and attempting to help and support those around him.

“I’m definitely one of the senior lads, and I feel like the younger lads can talk to me, look up to me, have a chat and banter with me,” he said. “You don’t have to take me too seriously, you’re a colleague.

"I don’t really see you as a young lad who has only just started. I look at everyone the same and respect everyone the same.”