Sunderland striker Connor Wickham is finally coming to terms with Premier League football.
The 19-year-old has struggled to make an impact on Wearside since his £8m arrival from Ipswich Town in the summer of 2011.
Having made very few appearances in the first half of this season, the England under-21 international has made major strides over the last month.
In last weekend’s FA Cup third round tie at Bolton, Wickham scored minutes after coming off the bench to help spark a Black Cats revival, as they overcame a two-goal deficit to force a replay.
It is believed that the Hereford-born forward has been putting in extra training with coach Steve Guppy and O’Neill believes Wickham is now showing he knows what it takes to deal with the demands of playing for a top flight club.
“It’s an important time for Connor now,” O’Neill told Chronicle Live.
“I think he has started to accept what a professional footballer at this level requires, what it needs to attain that and then to stay there.
“He is very willing and wants to come out and do some extra work which is very important.
“That goal at Bolton will have given him a lift in terms of confidence.
“In the little cameo role he has performed when he has come on from the bench, he’s done fine.
“Even in the game he started against Chelsea before Christmas, he didn’t do too badly.”
Despite Wickham’s resurgence, O’Neill has been linked with a January swoop for Gateshead-born Danny Graham to reinforce Sunderland’s attack.