Robbin Ruiter has established himself as Chris Coleman’s number one choice between the goalposts, but the Black Cats boss has again praised Jason Steele for his attitude and work ethic.
The pair were rotated regularly by former boss Simon Grayson, but, despite two major errors against Millwall, Coleman has put his faith in the Dutchman, who has started every game of his tenure so far.
Coleman has been rewarded with three clean sheets in five games and has declared himself pleased with the 30-year-old’s efforts.
Competition in that position will continue, however, with Steele making a strong impression in training.
Coleman said: “He has done well, has Robbin.
“But Steeley has done well too in training. I have been watching him as well. His attitude has been first-class, brilliant.
“He hasn’t moaned or complained once, he has just worked hard every day and he is ready.
“Robbin knows there are no automatic choices here at Sunderland.
“Every position is up for grabs. Robbin knows that. Steeley is a good boy – I like his character and he has worked his socks off.
“That is what you want to see from the players who are not involved.”
Ruiter, meanwhile, believes Coleman’s attention to detail and work on the organisation of the side is paying off.
The 30-year-old has been impressed with Coleman’s philosophy and believes it is a good match for the Sunderland squad.
He said: “Managers are different and have different styles, but you can’t say what is right or wrong.
“It’s just different.
“But one thing might fit a group of players better than something else.
“For me, the new gaffer has worked with our shape and the organisation of the team, and I think that’s really important, especially for the back four or five.
“It’s important to have a good shape, communicate and rely on each other.
“Small details are important to co-operate well and he has a specific style of football he wants to play. He wants us to play football, it’s not just kick and rush.
“We are allowed to make mistakes with the right intention.
“If we do everything to get it right, it’s alright. The more you train and work on it, the better you will play.”
Ruiter will likely keep his spot for the visit of Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off), with Coleman picking the same group of players who finally ended the home hoodoo against Fulham last weekend.
Bryan Oviedo, Jack Rodwell and Billy Jones are all still unavailable, with Paddy McNair also set to miss out.
The improving fitness of Didier Ndong and the return from suspension of Lee Cattermole does at least offer greater options in central midfield.