STEVE Bruce admits Jack Colback has given him a selection dilemma by refusing to play second-fiddle to Sunderland’s summer signings.
Colback could easily see his opportunities limited this season with the arrival of Craig Gardner, Seb Larsson and David Vaughan handing Black Cats boss Bruce a wealth of options in midfield.
But the 21-year-old has maintained his rich vein of form from the tail end of last year during Sunderland’s pre-season campaign and drilled the Wearsiders into the lead during last night’s 3-1 victory at Hartlepool United.
Bruce said: “Jack’s had a wonderful pre-season. He had a great end to last season and he’s said to me just by playing, ‘It doesn’t matter who’ve you brought in, I want to be involved’.
“The kid couldn’t do any more.
“That’s great as a manager and I’m delighted with him.”
While Colback earned the praise of his boss, it was front two Stephane Sessegnon and Asamoah Gyan, along with Larsson, who impressed for Sunderland in the testimonial for Pools legend Ritchie Humphreys.
Pools struggled to contain the movement and pace of the Sunderland strike force, while Larsson was heavily involved from the left-hand side of midfield and broke his Black Cats duck with the third goal.
“I looked at Asamoah Gyan and Sessegnon and thought they’re a handful to play against,” said Bruce.
“They’ve got a little trick, are strong, quick and powerful. There’s a good mix there which is pleasing.
“Seb’s finished one which is good for him. He’s got a wonderful delivery and can play on the left or right. It’s equal to him.
“He’s a good player and he will add something to us, particularly from set pieces which we’ve been sadly missing.”
Those first-team players who didn’t feature at Victoria Park will head to Darlington tonight (kick-off 8pm) as Bruce looks to get 90 minutes under the belts of all his players.
Sunderland then head to Hibernian on Saturday in the dress rehearsal for the Premier League opener at Liverpool seven days later.
Bruce added: “We decided that we’d make the two games this week both first-team games.
“We’ll put out a lot of the lads who need 90 minutes at Darlington tonight as well.
“It’s an important week and last night was as sharp as I’ve seen us which is good. The 11 certainly needed 90 minutes so let’s hope the other squad members can match what we saw last night.
“Hopefully we can get even better on Saturday and get ready for Anfield which is 10 days away.”