Phil Parkinson believes competition for places has created an environment for every Sunderland player to thrive in.
Continuity has been a figure of the Black Cats’ rise in recent weeks as boss Parkinson has made just one change to his previous four starting line-ups.
Back in the promotion mix after just one defeat in 12 games and six clean sheets in the last seven fixtures, the Lads are in fine fettle as they hit the road this weekend and head to Oxford United.
Speaking to the media following Sunderland’s recent home wins over Ipswich Town and Rochdale, Parkinson has talked up the importance of competition in the squad and how that’s created a competitive culture in the group.
“It's difficult because loan players come in with the intention of playing but in response, the players who were here have gone up another level and that's the beauty of having competition and having good quality players waiting for their moment,” he said.
“George Dobson has been right at the top of his game for the last two matches, and if you are in his shoes or those of Max Power and you are looking over your shoulder and seeing Josh Scowen, it makes you raise your game.
“It's the same for Lynden and Chris, who have upped their games because they know Ant is pushing them, as is Duncan Watmore who has been with us all along.
“Duncan is frustrated because he wants more game time but equally, he is a team player and a squad player, and he understands that the lads in those positions are scoring goals and doing well.”
“I was pleased with Ant when he came on against Rochdale,” he continued.
“When you come into a new club and they play a different system - not a basic 4-4-2 or something that everyone knows - there is a period where you need some time to understand your role in that system, and we've had time to work with Ant on that.
“At Portsmouth he came on in difficult circumstances, but you saw from his involvement in the game against Rochdale this week that he has a better understanding of the expectations of him in that position.
“He's got pace but he's got football intelligence and he's got ability.
“He has got a good attitude and as you could see the other night when he came on, he was prepared to work for the team.
“We don't want to carry anybody who is not prepared to work for the team, and he has shown that he is capable - and willing - to do that.”