Jack Ross says Reece James will keep his place in the Sundeland side, providing he keeps up his current levels of performance.
James was handed an unexpected opportunity when Bryan Oviedo saw red against Peterborough United at the start of the month.
He has since impressed in four league showings, with the Black Cats keeping clean sheets in the last three of those matches.
Ross says Oviedo is fully aware that he will have to wait for his chance while that form continues.
“I mentioned it post-Shrewsbury that I’m the manager of a big squad but I’ve seen plenty of big squads before and I’m sure there are other through the leagues this season but it only works if you’ve got them all at it,” he said.
“I’m very lucky at the moment that I’ve got a group of players who all want to play. It’s not just their attitude, but their response to getting opportunities which has been really good and Reece has strong competition for his place, not just from Bryan but from Denver when he gets fit but he got an opportunity through circumstances and he’s taken it.
“If he continues to do that, he’ll continue to play and Bryan knows that as well. When the opportunity comes to Bryan, it will be the same for him.”
Ross says that he hopes he has now shown his squad that the team will be picked on merit and performance, rather than reputation.
“I would hope so because I’ve been fairly consistent on that and Southend was an example of it,” he said.
“When players are in and they’re playing well, they’ll keep playing and if there are changes there’s usually a reason behind it which is explained to them. If you’re open in your communication with players, generally the reaction is a positive one and that’s been the case to date.”