Midfielder looking for senior return.
David Vaughan admits he faces a challenge to get back into the Sunderland side having returned from injury.
The midfielder, 29, picked up a stomach injury in pre-season and played his first game of the campaign for the club’s development side recently.
He also linked up with the Wales squad ahead of the game against Belgium and was an unused substitute at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Vaughan is ramping up the pace but knows he has a tough task ahead with competition for places running high following Martin O’Neill’s summer strengthening.
“I know it will be difficult to get my place back,” Vaughan said.
“We were a bit short on numbers last season and maybe the team was a bit easier to pick.
“But the manager has brought some good players in over the summer and there’s great quality in the squad.
“It will be much harder to hold a place down and everyone is fighting for a place.
“That pushes everyone on because you know that if you don’t perform, someone is waiting to step in.
“That’s a good challenge for everyone to step up to.”
Meanwhile Vaughan says he’s been impressed by the start made by Steven Fletcher, one of O’Neill’s new arrivals.
Fletcher scored twice in the 2-2 draw at Swansea last time out on his league debut for the club.
“It was a good result at a difficult place to go,” Vaughan said.
“Steven’s got off to a great start and has already shown what he can do.
“If he keeps it going he can be a really big player for us.”