Donald Love has backed David Moyes’ decision to drop him from the side earlier in the season, but says he is growing in confidence and experience with every game.
Love joined Sunderland alongside Paddy McNair from Manchester United in the summer, and with Moyes facing a threadbare squad, Love was called upon from the off.
He impressed on debut, as the Black Cats almost landed a superb point against Manchester City. Jermain Defoe had levelled the game in the final ten minutes but an unfortunate own goal from fellow debutant McNair settled the contest.
Love kept his place in the side for the next two games, with Sunderland losing to Middlesbrough and only just getting past Shrewsbury in the EFL Cup, saved at the end by Adnan Januzaj’s fine individual effort.
Love struggled on both occasions and while he has remained a part of the matchday squad, the impressive form of Billy Jones at right-back meant he was limited to substitute appearances.
An injury to Jones saw Love return for the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, and the right-back impressed, stifling Roberto Firmino and James Milner on the left flank.
Perhaps even more impressive was his display against Burnley. With David Moyes eager to get minutes for Javier Manquillo and to see how Jason Denayer fared at centre-half, it fell to Love to hold the fort at the base of Sunderland’s midfield.
The 22-year-old carried out the role with minimum fuss, making so important interventions, particularly in the early stages of the second half.
Love backed his manager’s call and said it was always likely to take him a bit of time to fully find his feet.
He said: “It was always going to take a bit of time for the new signings to settle, I think the gaffer took me out at the right time after the Shrewsbury game because I was poor that game, I admit that. Hopefully I can do well for him now and learn a lot off him.
“I’ll play anywhere, as long as I’m playing.”
With Didier Ndong likely to miss all of Sunderland’s January fixtures while on international duty, it may well fall to Love to stay in midfield and allow Denayer to remain at the heart of defence where he was impressive in the cup.