JOHN O’SHEA believes an injury-free run has contributed towards a return to the form which saw him make almost 400 appearances for Manchester United.
Summer signing O’Shea endured a mixed start to his Sunderland career after being plagued by hamstring problems.
The Republic of Ireland defender missed the bulk of pre-season through injury and then suffered relapses both on international duty and then in October’s draw with Aston Villa.
But over the last half-dozen games, O’Shea has been one of Sunderland’s most consistent performers – a run that has coincided with the 30-year-old switching from right-back to centre-half.
O’Shea said: “I knew it would take me a few games to get going and once the niggles were out of the way, I would hopefully get a run in the side.
“I knew that performances would improve steadily and thankfully they have, both personally and for the team. Hopefully that continues.
“It’s where I started playing professionally (centre-half). I’m really enjoying it there, but just playing is the most important thing.
“I’ve had a few different players alongside me in the last few games, but it’s been no problem settling in. They’re all good players. As long as the team is keeping as many clean sheets as we can and creating chances, I don’t mind where I play.”
Injury ruled O’Shea out of August’s defeat to Newcastle, but he is ready for his North East derby bow in this weekend’s FA Cup fourth round clash.
O’Shea believes there is an opportunity for Sunderland to exploit in the cup if they advance to the fifth round, with Manchester City out of the competition and Manchester United facing Liverpool tomorrow.
He added: “It was disappointing to miss the Newcastle game. They’re the games as a professional you want to be involved in.
“It’s one that we’re looking forward to. One of the players (former Boro midfielder Lee Cattermole) in particular is making sure everyone is on the ball for this game!
“Hopefully we can get the right result as well. The derby gives an added spice to the cup.
“We want to keep our run going and see if we can get the luck of the draw. In the last draw, there were some big teams drawn against each other again and if you’re in the next round of the hat, you might get another bit of luck.
“The next thing you know is you’re thinking about bigger aspirations in the cup.
“That keeps the confidence ticking over for the league as well.”