JOHN O’SHEA admits “deep down” he now sees himself as a centre-half.
The Republic of Ireland defender helped Sunderland to a clean sheet in last weekend’s Premier League opener at Arsenal after being paired with Carlos Cuellar in the heart of the Black Cats’ back four.
O’Shea’s best performances for Sunderland last season came in central defence and boss Martin O’Neill confirmed during pre-season that he wants to predominantly use the 31-year-old in that role.
Although the versatile O’Shea is more than happy to cover at full-back, the former Manchester United man concedes that he feels centre-half is his best position.
O’Shea told the Echo: “As long as I’m playing, that’s the most important thing.
“But I am comfortable at centre-half and I suppose, deep down, that’s where I would be most happy.
“That’s where the run of form came to me last season.
“If I stay there, that’s all well and good, but that’s the manager’s choice.”
O’Shea had no doubts that Cuellar would prove to be an effective addition to the back four after shining on his debut at the Emirates.
But O’Shea believes makeshift full-backs Craig Gardner and Kieran Richardson also deserve credit for Sunderland’s defensive resilience.
“I knew what type of player Carlos was after playing against him down through the years,” said O’Shea. “He’s worked with the manager before as well.
“He’s a fantastic addition to the team.
“He can fill in in a number of positions as well which is helpful, too.
“Whoever was going to be playing at the Emirates, needed to play well and be talking and thankfully we managed to keep a clean sheet.
“Obviously full-back is not the most natural position for Craig and Kieran, but they did a fantastic job for us.
“Not only that, the midfield did great as well, particularly away from home.
“Everyone can take a lot of credit from the game at the Emirates.”
Meanwhile, O’Shea admits he is glad to have begun his second season on Wearside without any injury worries.
O’Shea played just 34 minutes of pre-season last year after sustaining a hamstring injury which kept him out of the opening two Premier League outings.
But after returning to Wearside following a fortnight’s extra leave due to his Euro 2012 commitments, O’Shea hopes he can enjoy an injury-free campaign this time around.
He added: “The way I picked up the injury last season was very strange in pre-season. It interrupts your whole season.
“Maybe the key this year was missing most of pre-season!
“Fingers crossed, I can stay fit for the whole season now.”