PATRICK Roberts has been one of the Championship's best performers this season - and there's still even more to come from the forward.

So says former Sunderland midfielder Alex Rae, who believes Tony Mowbray is the perfect manager to get the best out of the ex-Manchester City wideman.

Roberts' career was in danger of fizzling out when he arrived on Wearside last year after spending several years on loan at various clubs.

But he's found a home at the Stadium of Light and has been key for the Black Cats in their impressive first campaign back in the second tier.

"On his day, he's brilliant," said Rae.

"He needs to add to his numbers but the level of consistency he's added to the team is really encouraging. I spoke to Tony Mowbray and he seems to have settled down now.

"Patrick is at a good age now. He's still only 26 years old and there's a lot of room for development. He's also used to playing in front of big numbers with Sunderland having regularly got 35,000-40,000 fans so when taking that into consideration, who knows where he can go from here.

"He must be playing with confidence because he has been one of the stand-outs this season in the Championship.

"He's at the right place at the right time and under a manager like Tony Mowbray, he can really kick on."

While Roberts helps to provide the Sunderland spark in attack, Luke O'Nien adds steel - whichever position he plays in. The popular 28-year-old, who has made more than 200 appearances on Wearside, reminds Rae of one of his former Sunderland teammates, club legend Kevin Ball.

"Luke has been at the club for a number of years now and has managed to accumulate excellent numbers," Rae told Grosvenor Sport.

"He's played a couple of hundred games for the club and that's the bracket where fans will love him.

"I like a lot of what Luke O'Nien brings to the table. He's dogged, resilient and he reminds me of my old skipper Kevin Ball in a lot of ways. He's very competitive, gives it his all and he can play a bit too so when you look at that, he's a player you'd want to build others around because he's a model of consistency."


Both Roberts and O'Nien will be key for Sunderland in the run-in as Mowbray's side look to gatecrash the Championship's top six.

The gap to the play-off places is four points, with the Black Cats now preparing for two home games on the bounce against Birmingham City and Huddersfield.

Birmingham are down in 17th but are unbeaten in their last four games and moved to 50 points thanks to their hard-fought draw with Stoke City on Easter Monday.

Boss John Eustace said: "I think from the start of the season we were favourites for relegation, everyone had written us off. 53 points has been the best points total in six years so that is something we have got to try and aim for.

"Collectively this group has been outstanding in my opinion. We have been written off in January and February when we went through a difficult period.

"We stuck together, especially in that dressing room we all stuck together and we are now one defeat in six. We have a couple of difficult games coming up, we know that, but overall to get to 50 points with five games left is a very good achievement.

"It's something that we have to keep working on and we want to pick up as many points as we can going forward."