DAVID Vaughan is eager to stake his claim for the vacant spot in Sunderland’s midfield.
Vaughan was back on the bench in the derby draw last weekend after a month on the sidelines with an ankle problem.
Although the Welsh international was deprived of the chance to make his bow for the Black Cats against Newcastle, his chances of featuring against Liverpool on Saturday have improved markedly thanks to Lee Cattermole’s four-game ban.
Vaughan and Jack Colback are the likely contenders to take Cattermole’s role in the engine room and the former Blackpool man believes he can fill the void left by the suspended skipper.
“Lee has done really well of late and deserves the praise he’s been getting since Martin (O’Neill) came in,” said Vaughan.
“But he’s not going to be available for the next four games, so it’s down to whoever gets his place to step into his shoes and do a good job.
“There are some big games coming up and hopefully I’ll get a chance to show what I can do in them.
“I’ll be staking a claim for a place in midfield and doing everything I can to help the team.”
Vaughan had been an ever-present under O’Neill prior to his lay-off – starting each of the Sunderland manager’s first 10 games in charge.
That was the 29-year-old’s longest run in the side since his Bosman arrival in the summer, with the midfielder struggling to get a consistent run in the side due to illness and injury.
He said: “It’s been a bit of a frustrating season for me really. It’s been one thing after another.
“There have been a couple of stages where I’ve had a little run in the team, but injuries have come at really bad times.
“It’s been a bit of a stop-start year, but hopefully I can get another run in the team between now and the end of the season.
“I feel settled now. There were a lot of new players coming in and, for whatever reason, we weren’t getting results at the start of the season. That makes things harder for everyone.
“But if you get a few wins, the atmosphere is much better around the club and everyone is walking around with a smile on their face. If you get the results, then everything else is easier.”
A starting spot on Saturday could go a long way towards securing Vaughan a place in the side that heads to Everton seven days later in the FA Cup quarter-final.
Vaughan added: “It would be massive to get to an FA Cup semi-final. A club of the stature of Sunderland should be competing for trophies and hopefully we can do that in the FA Cup.
“It’s good to have two massive games coming straight up after the derby. Sometimes when you’ve played in a big game like last weekend’s, things can peter out a bit afterwards.
“That’s not the case here. We have big games coming up and some really important things to look forward to.
“It would be massive to get to Wembley, huge.
“I played there with Blackpool and the occasion was brilliant and I’d love to get back there and play with Sunderland.”