Mavrias can wing it in Sunderland’s final friendlies

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CHARIS Mavrias will be handed a chance as a wingman in Sunderland’s remaining two friendlies, as reward for his contribution at full-back during pre-season.

Mavrias has been one of the bright spots of Sunderland’s friendly programme, with the Greek international clearly eager to catch Gus Poyet’s eye after failing to make a single Premier League appearance since the Uruguayan took charge at the Stadium of Light.

The 20-year-old’s contribution has been particularly impressive given he has spent the bulk of pre-season as a makeshift full-back, with new signings Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt providing the only alternatives there.

But Mavrias’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by Poyet, with the head coach ready to hand the ex-Panathinaikos man a chance as an orthodox winger in tonight’s friendly against Real Betis and / or Saturday’s clash with Udinese.

Poyet said: “I want to say a big, massive, thanks to ‘Harry’ so far because it is not easy for a young player, a winger, who wants to impress the manager to be asked to play full-back.

“So, if everything goes alright and we have two full-backs tonight, I would like to see him in his proper position for at least part of the next two games, because he deserves that.”

Jozy Altidore will make his first appearance of pre-season tonight after participating in his own individual training programme, following his late return from the World Cup.

New boy Jack Rodwell is also due to make his Black Cats bow at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park ground, while Seb Larsson should feature after flying home early from Sunderland’s pre-season trip to Portugal last week when his wife was going into labour.

With Sunderland facing their final two friendlies in the space of 48 hours, defender Valentin Roberge should get an opportunity to stake a claim in one of the encounters too.

Roberge told the Echo earlier this week how he was determined to fight for his future on Wearside after a learning curve during his maiden season at the Stadium of Light.

Certainly, the 27-year-old has a better chance of remaining at the club than either Cabral or Modibo Diakite, who also arrived on Bosman deals last summer, yet are clearly not in Poyet’s plans.

And with Poyet reluctant to use Wes Brown in both of this week’s back-to-back games, he has challenged Roberge, who completed 90 minutes in Sunderland’s final friendly in Portugal against Vitoria Setubal, to make the most of every chance he gets.

“He has been training with us and he knows what we want and there are opportunities,” said Poyet.

“I didn’t want to play Wes for another 90 minutes last weekend, but he will play on Thursday or Saturday.

“So it was a great chance for him (Roberge) to play and defend and pass the ball.

“That’s what it is all about. It’s not about me, it’s about the players performing in these games.”