SUNDERLAND had a good day in their last game against Stoke City.
There were some fine individual performances, that three points boosted their league position and two strikers scored who hadn’t found the net in the Premier League this season.
Something else to be impressed with was the strength of Sunderland’s bench, with quality players unable to get in the starting XI and having to settle for the role of substitute.
Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson and Wes Brown are all experienced Premier League players that have been capped for England, while Costel Pantilimon and Jozy Altidore are regulars for their country. All were available to Gus Poyet if he felt changes were needed.
Emanuele Giaccherini and Ricky Alvarez would almost certainly have been on the bench too if not for injury, and both those players are internationals for major countries.
Sunderland have got genuine competition for places now, which means anyone with a first-team place who thinks they can coast for a couple of games will pay for it and can be quickly replaced.
No player likes the tag of super-sub, as any professional with any pride wants a starting position in the team and that competition for places just strengthens Poyet’s hand.
Football is now a game which demands big squads and the days are long gone when you could play the same XI week-in, week-out.
Sunderland could still do with another two or three players just to bring the numbers up and Poyet will probably address that in the January transfer window.
But I don’t think there are many Premier League teams from the middle of the table downwards with the sort of quality Sunderland have outside their starting XI, and that could prove to be a huge advantage over the course of a long season.