Reece James has been learning from Bryan Oviedo since he arrived at the club - and now he’s determined to keep him out the Sunderland side.
The 24-year-old has started the last two Sunderland games following Oviedo’s red card and the injury suffered to Denver Hume.
Ex-Wigan defender James had found himself third choice left-back but circumstances have since seen him elevated to the No.1 spot and he’s determined to seize his opportunity.
Oviedo, currently away on international duty with Costa Rica, is serving a three-game ban after kicking out in the draw with Peterborough United and this weekend’s trip to Shrewsbury Town is the second match of his ban and he will also miss the League One clash at promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers next Tuesday.
That, coupled with Hume’s knee injury that will keep him out for another month, has seen Jack Ross turn to James, who penned a one-year deal in the summer.
Sunderland, who dropped to fifth after a weekend off, are targeting an instant return to the Championship and James believes the fierce competition for places can only be a good thing.
On getting a first team run, James said: “It’s been brilliant.
“When I came to the club I knew it was going to be tough with competition for places, especially with Bryan and Denver because they’re both top players.
“But that’s what you want at a club like Sunderland, you want competition and that’s what it’s all about.
“It’s just nice to get an opportunity now and hopefully I can try and build a bit of momentum with each game to try and stay in the team.
“I’m very determined to take the opportunity.
“I want to do as well as I can for both the club and myself. I have to take this opportunity now with each game.”
And having been keen to learn as much as he can from international left-back Oviedo, James is now hoping to keep him out the side when he returns from suspension and he has impressed in the league win at Bradford City and the Checkatrade Trophy win over Carlisle United.
On Oviedo, James added: “You learn from him everyday, and you learn from each other.
“You might see certain things he does in training and you might think ‘I can take that into my game’.
“He’s someone we all can learn from.
“I picked his brain when I first came here just asking what the World Cup in the summer was like. It’s unbelievable to have players like that, and Lee Cattermole and Aiden McGeady who were unbelievable Premier League players who shouldn’t be at this level.
“But it’s great for somebody like me to play alongside them.”
Ross had a simple message for the former Manchester United youth product following Hume’s injury blow and Oviedo’s suspension.
“Jack told me to just go out there and show what I can do. He said to me that there’s an opportunity now to stay in the team and it’s up to me if I take that chance. Hopefully I can do that in the next few games.
“[Great squad strength] is what you need, especially when you’re aiming to be title winners. You’ve got to have competition for places so that if someone is not quite on it, you’ve got someone there ready to step right in and takeover.
“We’ve done that in various positions already this season - midfield, centre-half, left-back, so right across the pitch we’ve got a lot of good options.
“That’s what the gaffer has done here, he’s built a very strong squad.”