GUS Poyet believes Liam Bridcutt and Lee Cattermole have both made great cases for staying in Sunderland’s first team.
And the Black Cats boss says that any debate over whether the two can play in the same side together, is now effectively over.
Both players are likely to start tonight’s game against Liverpool after pairing up well in the disappointing defeat at Norwich City at the weekend.
And Poyet says each player has qualities which are going to be vital if Sunderland are to have a successful run-in to the end of the campaign.
He told the Echo: “Liam has only been at a Premier League club for a couple of months but when things were going wrong at Norwich he was about the only one who was remaining composed.
“He was constantly trying to receive the ball, to find space, to pass the ball - not to panic, not to hurry.
“I was surprised at how quickly he has settled in but I shouldn’t be really, I knew the sort of player I was getting when I signed him in January.”
Bridcutt’s arrival at the start of the year was expected to signal the end of Cattermole’s stay at the club and he came within a whisker of joining Stoke City on transfer deadline day.
But Poyet fought to keep the Teessider at the club to compete with Bridcutt for the defensive midfield role.
And now he believes that both can operate successfully in the same side after watching the two working together in training and at Carrow Road.
He said: “Them playing together is now an option - I’m not saying it is something we will use every game.
“But you want qualities like those Liam has and those Lee has in your team.
“Lee is such a competitor and he’s also a natural leader.
“I did not want to make a double substitution in the first-half at Norwich, but I have to say that bringing him on was one of the easiest decisions I have had to make since arriving at the club.
“He’s a player always willing to take responsibility and willing to take the ball and his attitude is never anything less than top notch.
“If we are going to stay up this season we will need characters.
“Character alone will not be enough - we need to score goals too!
“But characters are what you build a determined, consistent team around and Lee is a big character in our dressing room.”