GUS POYET has hinted that banned pair Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena will find it tough to reclaim their starting spots, as he bids to heat up the competition in Sunderland’s ranks.
Midfielder Cattermole and left-back Dossena will serve the final match of their three-game suspensions in next week’s trip to fourth-bottom Stoke City after both were sent off at Hull earlier this month.
Sunderland have won each of the two games while the duo have been absent, with replacements Ondrej Celustka and, particularly, Ki Sung-Yeung impressing.
Head coach Poyet is eager to foster a competitive environment at the Stadium of Light, where players cannot take their places for granted.
And while he admits there are key figures who will inevitably feature if available, the Uruguayan has indicated that he is ready to keep faith with those who come into the side and impress.
Poyet told the Echo: “If someone gets sent off, they have three games out and someone steps in and the team starts winning, then it’s a problem for the other guy.
“Now, if he comes in and only does OK and you don’t win, then it’s easy for the other one to come back.
“Obviously it depends on who is missing too.
“If you get Ronaldo sent off, it doesn’t matter how the other guy does. He’s playing when he’s back.
“But you balance everything and I try to do that before making a ‘daft’ call.”
Poyet added: “I don’t want to come to a Saturday morning and everyone knows the team.
“That means they pick themselves.
“I like to be in a position where you can have competition.
“Then it’s up to me to pick the right team.”
Poyet admitted during his first month in the job that he was searching for his strongest XI and he has experimented with both formation and personnel, with 19 players used in the starting line-up in just five games.
In time, the former Brighton boss expects to have a more settled side, where he knows the bulk of those who will feature regularly.
But even then, Poyet is keen for players to scrap over the final few places that are available.
“Normally after being at a club for three to six months, you know seven or eight players in your head that if they’re okay, they play,” he added.
“But then there are positions to grab and you want that competition between them.”