DAVID VAUGHAN is relieved to be back in Sunderland’s starting XI after a summer of speculation over his future.
But the Welsh international acknowledges that his contribution must improve, with Paolo Di Canio’s midfield options boosted by the arrival of on-loan Swansea man Ki Sung-Yeung.
Vaughan, in the final year of his contract at the Stadium of Light, was the subject of an enquiry from newly-promoted Crystal Palace during the summer.
It is thought the 31-year-old was willing to take a pay-cut to move to Selhurst Park and secure a reunion with his former Blackpool manager Ian Holloway.
But the deal never materialised, with Sunderland holding out for the £1million asking price they had placed on Vaughan’s head.
Vaughan has started Sunderland’s last two games though and with the transfer window now shut, he hopes to make the most of his opportunity in Di Canio’s side.
He said: “Obviously, there’s been a lot of speculation over my future and stuff during the summer.
“But I just want to be playing football.
“I’m pleased to be back in the team at Sunderland, but hopefully I can improve on the performances from the last couple of games.”
Vaughan was one of the few Sunderland players singled out for praise by Di Canio after last weekend’s 3-1 defeat at Palace - a result which left the Black Cats as one of only three Premier League sides without a victory heading into the international break.
The midfielder, with the Welsh squad ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Macedonia, admits Sunderland have been the architects of their own downfall after conceding from set-pieces in each of their opening three top flight outings.
And he knows Sunderland need to hit the ground running again when the Premier League resumes against Arsenal on Saturday week.
“We’ve got to try to pick ourselves up and get some points on the board quickly,” added Vaughan.
“The international break has come at a bad time, at the start of the season.
“But it gives us a break mentally and hopefully we can come back fresh for the Arsenal game.
“We got ourselves back into the game at Palace, but we seem to be making things difficult for ourselves at the minute.
“To concede a second and third goal like that, was obviously very disappointing.
“We need to stop conceding poor goals from set pieces, try to get on top of games early on and just give ourselves a chance really.
“We seem to be switching off at the crucial times. We should be doing better than that.”