Jack Colback efforts please Sunderland boss Steve Bruce
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce believes midfielder Jack Colback has stepped up to the challenge of battling for a first-team opportunity this season.
Colback, 21, returned from loan at Ipswich to make 12 appearances for Bruce's injury-hit squad last term, and has been key to the squad this summer.
"Jack has been outstanding in pre-season," Bruce told BBC Look North.
"He's making a claim that he wants to be in the starting line-up no matter who we've signed - which is very good."
Depth has been an issue for Sunderland, as injuries to players such as Michael Turner, David Meyler and Lee Cattermole put pressure on the Black Cats throughout last season.
This year, Bruce's options in midfield have been strengthened by the arrivals of Sebastian Larsson, Craig Gardner and David Vaughan, in addition to signings such as Ji Dong-Won, Connor Whickham and Wes Brown.
"It's OK making eight or nine new signings. But about it's gelling them, getting them adapted and used to the north east," Bruce added.
"Everything, the slightest detail, is important when you bring in that many new players.
"We'll do our utmost to get them settled in, we need four or five to hit the ground running, but we did very well last season.
"We've got the nucleus before, with eight or nine coming in, so there's some very healthy competition for places."