Roy Keane has backed veteran midfielder Dwight Yorke to play an important role in helping Sunderland avoid the drop this season.
Yorke made his first appearance of the campaign in last weekend's home draw with Arsenal after missing his side's first six Barclays Premier League matches.
Keane believes the 36-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international is one of the best holding midfielders in his squad and has faith in Yorke to play his part this season.
Yorke also featured for 45 minutes against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and is likely to be prominent in his country's World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala on Saturday and USA on Wednesday.
He has been restricted so far after suffering a fractured eye socket during pre-season, but the Sunderland boss hopes Yorke will come back from the international duty unscathed and ready to challenge for a starting place in the team.
Keane told the Sunderland Echo: "We knew Yorkie could play a role this season. He's been playing catch-up since missing two or three weeks with the quite nasty injury he got in pre-season.
"The lads have done reasonably well without him so he has struggled to get back into the team.
"We know that Yorkie has the experience and I think he's as good as anyone we've got at the club at that holding role in midfield.
"It was a bit of a risk throwing him back in against a big club like Arsenal but we knew he would come through that."
Keane however remains sceptical about how much punishment his former Manchester United team-mate can take.
He said: "He's got three international games with the friendly and two qualifiers. Hopefully he'll use his common sense and the manager will as well, but it is out of our hands.
"You have to trust the player and the manager he's going to play under that they won't take any silly risks.
"It is about trying to get the balance right with Yorkie."