Luke O'Nien has launched an impassioned defence of under-fire Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson, and says the players have to work harder to prove they are right behind him.

The Sunderland boss has won just two of his opening 13 games in charge of the club and has seen a drop off in both form and league position as their average of one point per game since his arrival has seen them fall to 12th.

It's been a difficult period for everyone involved at the club, with fans calling for the manager's head during the current eight-game run without a win.

But O'Nien has defended Parkinson, and says the players are behind him, but must prove that on the pitch.

He said: "The new manager is a good man and I’ve really enjoyed working under him. I’ve been a part of every single day and I know how hard they work and what they want from us.

"When results aren’t going our way, it’s not always easy to see things like that [fans wanting a change]. I understand why there would be, because the fans have high expectations and when those expectations aren’t met then I can understand their frustration coming out.

"But what I’ve learned in the last year and a half of being at this club is that the fans are accepting that results aren’t always going to go their way, and what they want is people who work their hardest every single day. They want to see people giving their all for the badge and the club, and the manager is no different to that.

"The manager and his staff give exactly what the fans want - they work hard, they give their all for the badge and want the club to succeed. Fans don’t get to see the work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s not exactly going to plan on the pitch, but I think with time you can see things starting to change and we’re starting to get momentum."

He continued: "I’ve loved working under him. Since he came in his instructions have been clear. Yeah, the results may not have gone our way and it’s easy to shift blame onto the manager, but I think sometimes players need to take more responsibility.

"It’s okay going through a sticky patch, it’s not ideal for anyone, but things can’t always go your way. How we come through that is the most important thing. That will be clear in the next month, if we go on a good run of form the start to the season will have been forgotten.

The gaffer and his staff have been very good to me, very clear and they’ve always got an open door when you need to talk through anything. Hopefully we can start getting some points on the board and start climbing the table."

Despite sitting in what is the club's joint-lowest ever league position, all is not lost for the season.

With games in hand, they're still just four points off the play-offs, and nine off automatic promotion. And O'Nien is convinced they can turn it around.

"It’s been challenging. I think we’re starting to come through a tough period," he said.

"The results aren’t going our way and we’re not in a good part of the table, but I believe we’re going to come strong.

"I think there’s been some good signs from many of the games. We’re building in each game and the results can sometimes gloss over how we’ve been playing. If the results aren’t going our way, it’s easy to turn around and say things are negative. But we’re slowly growing and finding our own identity, and I think that’s important.

"Everyone is up there in our league at the moment, it’s quite tight. We’ve been on a bad run of form and we’re not a long away from Ipswich. That goes to show that if we can go on a big run, which we’re more than capable of, then there will be no problem. We’re not only looking at the play-off spots, but above and beyond.

"I’ve seen teams go on a 10, 15 game unbeaten run and sneak into the automatics at the end of the season. Charlton shot up last year and if they had a few more games they might have even gone up automatically. Listen, there’s a long way to go. We’re not even halfway through so it’s too early to say they’re up and they’re not. There’s a long, long way to go."