JOHN O’SHEA says central defensive partner Santiago Vergini was always going to need time to thrive in the Premier League.
Argentine international Vergini has lined up alongside O’Shea for the last game and a half, with fellow centre-halves Wes Brown and Sebastian Coates both on the treatment table.
Vergini was unconvincing at centre-half after first arriving on loan at the Stadium of Light in January and it wasn’t until he was moved to right-back for the final six games of last season that he looked more assured.
But the 26-year-old – who re-joined Sunderland on a second loan deal in the summer – has been far more composed in his second spell in the heart of the Black Cats’ defence after helping Gus Poyet’s side to a second successive league clean sheet in last weekend’s draw against Swansea.
Skipper O’Shea has not been surprised by Vergini’s progress after seeing the challenge South Americans face to adapt to the Premier League both at Sunderland and particularly at previous club Manchester United.
O’Shea told the Echo: “It’s just a confidence factor.
“You go back to players who came in at Manchester United years ago, whether it be from France or South America.
“Some of them took a season to get used to it.
“I know the football is intense in South America, but I don’t think it compares over 90 minutes to the Premier League.
“It was a case of us getting to know Santi and him getting to know us, and the manager getting his points across over how we would adapt to everything.
“He went to right-back and did fantastic towards the end of last season and at the start of this season.
“He deserved a call-up to the not-so-easy (Argentina) squad to get into!
“That just shows you how well he’s done and the progression he keeps making.”
While O’Shea has been pleased to record two clean sheets on the spin, he would have gladly swapped them for a first Premier League victory of the campaign.
Sunderland came desperately close to that maiden win in a much-improved display against Swansea last weekend, yet Poyet’s men head into this weekend’s visit of Stoke City still looking to break their duck.
“The clean sheets are pleasing, don’t get me wrong,” added O’Shea.
“But I’d have loved to have won our last two matches 5-4 because it means a lot more points.
“It’s something to build on though.
“If we get a clean sheet against Stoke, I think more than likely we’ll be coming away with three points
“The win is definitely coming. It’s just frustrating because we dominated the Swansea game and did everything well.
“If you keep those basic things right, you’re going the right way to getting those three points.
“We have to maintain those standards of work-rate and intensity, and hopefully a goal will drop in for someone.
“Everyone will then get the confidence from that.
“Everything looks okay, it’s just that final piece.”