Martin O’Neill says the decision to recall troubled skipper Lee Cattermole to the side in Sunderland’s win at QPR was easy to make.
And the Black Cats boss believes the captain has a key role to play in the weeks and months ahead in getting the best possible return from the Sunderland squad.
The midfielder missed O’Neill’s first game in charge through suspension and there were question marks over whether he would return to the side after he and Nicklas Bendtner were arrested in connection with allegations of vandalism to cars in Newcastle earlier in the month.
As it was though, O’Neill played both men at Loftus Road on Wednesday and was rewarded with tremendous performances.
Bendtner scored on the night and had one of his best performances in a Sunderland shirt, while Cattermole was at his tenacious best in midfield.
“It was an easy decision to make in bringing Lee back in,” said O’Neill. “It was not something I had to spend any length of time thinking about.
“He’s a great player to have in your side and I think you saw that on the night against Queens Park Rangers.
“He loves to tackle, loves to close down and he can pass well too.
“More than that, though, is that great spirit he has in games and I think he’s a player who has that ability to bring out the best in those around him.
“He’s had difficulties but his ability has never been in doubt.
“It’s important that we make the most of it.”
The return of Cattermole and the excellent cameo by substitute Craig Gardner at QPR has meant there’s real competition at the moment in central midfield where David Vaughan and Jack Colback have also impressed.
O’Neill, whose men face Everton today, said: “We need that because there’s so many games coming up and I’ll be looking to make full use of the squad.
“At the moment, everyone is in with a chance because I’ve been delighted by their attitude and the qualities they have.
“It’s important for a manager to have options and at the moment I’ve certainly got that in midfield.”