Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has praised Matthew Kilgallon for making the most of his first-team opportunities in recent weeks.
The former Sheffield United defender looked to be on his way out of the Stadium of Light after finding himself a long way down the pecking order.
The summer arrivals of John O'Shea and Wes Brown from Manchester United increased the competition for places at the heart of the defence, with the Black Cats already having Titus Bramble and Michael Turner on their books.
However, with Bramble and Turner both sidelined, Kilgallon came off the bench to replace the injured Brown in the 1-0 home win over Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Simce then he has started away at Wigan in the league and also in the third round FA Cup tie against Peterborough on Sunday, helping Sunderland to victory on each occasion.
"I hadn't seen that very much of him, other than little bits in training, of course," said O'Neill.
"He got the opportunity the other week when Wes Brown got injured. He went on to the field and he has acquitted himself very well so far in the games.
"I think he is just pleased to be involved at this minute where perhaps he didn't have involvement before.
"Now, that's fine. I have been at football clubs where players maybe didn't get the same sort of involvement before, and then suddenly it happens for them either with the manager there or with someone else in.
"It's the case with not just Matt himself, but with other players. If they feel as if the team has done well and they hadn't been a serious part of it, when they get that opportunity, they might as well give it everything they have got.
"I think that applies here."