STEVE Bruce is convinced the versatility of Wes Brown and John O’Shea will be a major asset for Sunderland this season.
Bruce rates the £6million acquisition of the two experienced defenders from Manchester United as his biggest transfer coup of the summer – even surpassing the £8m signing of Liverpool and Spurs target Connor Wickham.
Neither of the now former Red Devils are lacking experience after playing a total of more than 850 appearances together for club and country.
But it is their flexibility in defence which Bruce believes is their major asset.
Republic of Ireland international O’Shea can play anywhere across the back four, as well as central midfield, while former England defender Brown is equally comfortable at centre-half and right-back.
Bruce said: “The versatility of John O’Shea is quite staggering.
“He’s played right-back, centre-back, left-back and in midfield for Manchester United. Wes can also play in more than one role in the back four.
“Having players who are versatile is crucial at times when you do come up against injuries.
“We needed to give ourselves a bit of strength in depth and the Manchester United two have done that.”
Sunderland’s defensive options were depleted after the departure of loanees Nedum Onuoha and John Mensah.
And with Titus Bramble and Michael Turner making their way back from the injuries which prematurely ended their contribution last season, the capture of Brown and O’Shea is a major boost to Sunderland’s backline.
Bruce remains without a natural left-footer to hold down the left-back slot, with George McCartney still surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light.
But Bruce is happy for Phil Bardsley to continue at left-back with the ex-Manchester United defender earning the Player of the Year accolade there last season.
Bruce said: “Phil Bardsley had his best season of his career last year at left-back.
“I don’t think there’s any problem for Phil to play right or left-back because he’s naturally two-footed. He’s very decent on his left foot. You would struggle to identify which is his weaker one.”