Jack Ross says he will not hesitate to be ruthless as he weighs up a number of big selection issues.
Rochdale visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday with Ross eager to put a swift end to his team’s first winless run of the season.
Despite seeing Charlie Wyke suffer another knee injury at the Pirelli Stadium last weekend, Ross has a number of options and says his players know they will lose their place if they do not perform.
“We’re getting closer to the point where players have a real understanding that they have to play well to keep their place in the team,” Ross said.
“I don’t like using it as fear for motivating players to do well but I think they can see it themselves, they’re not silly. They can see that the depth is there.
“Ideally as a manager you want two players to compete for each position, that’s quite old-fashioned but I think most managers would say the same.
“We have that and a little bit more when you have the emergence of someone like Denver [Hume] who has increased competition in his position. It should help us and drive players on.”
Denver Hume is just one player pushing for a recall after last weekend’s defeat.
Tom Flanagan will be in contention as he nears full fitness and Chris Maguire responded to the drop with a superb goal against Burton Albion.
Dylan McGeouch is also expected to be available after returning to training this week.
With Aiden McGeady making his first appearance of the season last Satuday, Ross knows he will not be able to keep all of his players happy.
He believes the competition will be healthy, however, and promises to ensure all his players know why they are out of the team if it comes to it.
Ross said: “Every player at every club will believe that they should be playing.
“The one thing I’ll always do is communicate with players. Ideally I’d do that before I name the team but you don’t always get that chance.
“I’ve had loads of players in the past and I’m sure I will continue to do so who come into my office and they don’t always leave happy, but at least there’ll have been a conversation. The only problem is if that unhappiness becomes reflected in their work on the training pitch.
“As long as it doesn’t then if they don’t agree with me then it is just part of my job, if I didn’t want to do it then I’d be the coach or assistant. Then you get to say, ‘Yeah, I agree, i’d have picked you!’. That’s just part of the job.”