GUS Poyet says it is essential everyone in Sunderland’s squad is ready for first-team action at an instant’s notice.
And he has highlighted Valentin Roberge’s impressive contribution against Stoke City as an example of a player who was properly prepared when the moment came.
The French defender was unexpectedly thrust into action when Wes Brown was wrongly sent off at the Britannia Stadium last month and the former Maritimo man produced an assured performance as 10-man Sunderland refused to crumble against the Potters.
“Valentin did very well,” said Poyet. “And that’s the sort of sharpness I need from all my players.
“A phrase you will hear from me time and time again is: “Be Ready”.
“I need my players to be ready because they could be needed anytime and that is never more true than a month like this one when we have so many games.
“If you are not starting games regularly, or not appearing as a substitute too often, there’s a danger that you mentally switch off – that you just assume you are not going to be called upon.
“But that might not be the case and so one thing I say to individual players over and over again, is ‘Be Ready’ because you never know when we’re going to be called upon you to do an important job.”
Roberge acquitted himself admirably against Stoke and may well be called into action again this week with Chelsea visiting the Stadium of Light tomorrow night and Spurs coming to Wearside at the weekend.
Poyet knows he will have to use his squad intelligently in what is a very busy month for the club and nowhere will he have to be more watchful than in the centre of defence.
Inspirational centre-half Wes Brown has been involved in five games in the last month after 22 months on the sidelines and Poyet appreciates he must be wary of asking too much too soon of the 34-year-old,
He also has to look at the situation of John O’Shea who pulled up with a muscle injury five minutes before the end of Saturday’s goalless draw at Aston Villa but managed to limp on to the end.
Poyet will want to keep together a partnership which has vastly improved since the former Man United man were paired together in the heart of defence but if he does decide to rest one or the other tomorrow night, he will have no problems in bringing in Roberge again.
“I think Valentin is settling in and coming to terms with things,” he said.
“When we got here we started to give him plenty of information, which was probably different than he had had before under Kevin Ball, which was probably different than he had before under Paolo Di Canio.
“You are talking about three different coaches in a short space of time but now he knows that we have our way of playing and he is happy with that.
“He had a little niggling injury after we arrived but he’s over that and now he’s training, training, training and absorbing what we are saying and we were delighted with how well he did at Stoke when he had to come on after the sending off.
“He is stronger and he is very keen to play and that’s what he want here at the club – it’s not just Valentin it applies to, everybody needs to be ready.”