Jack Ross praised Benji Kimpioka for taking another chance to impress in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Kimpioka entered the action at half time and helped spark a significant improvement from Sunderland, who ran out 4-0 winners.
The 18-year-old scored a late goal to round off his display, his second in the competition this season.
"He's an interesting one for me because sometimes I watch him in U23 games and he doesn't have as big an impact as I would hope," Ross said.
"He's a bit up and down.
"And yet, every first team game he's been involved in this season he's been good, really good.
"There's a good case to say that how he affects first team games is more important.
"He brings something different, he's unpredictable and he can play off the side or through the middle.
"Even tonight, handling the bit of stick he got from the crowd and all these things, been able to respond in that manner is a real positive for him.
"I like him, he's one that is forcing his way into my thinking if you like, rather than seeing him as an out-and-out U23 player.
"That's positive for him."
Ross admits that he is keen to secure regular first-team football for the Swede at some stage, but is minded to keep him at the club for the rest of the season.
"It's a good question," Ross said.
"I've been consistent in saying that we need to loan more players out as a club.
"However, with Benji, he's still at the younger end of the age scale to do that, if you like.
"That's not to say it's not a possibility but at the moment, because of the impact he's had in these games and the uncertainty around one or two other's players fitness at the minute, I'd say he's one that will remain at the club.
"Hopefully he'll force his way into my thinking."