Goalkeeper Kieren Westwood has underlined his determination to break into Sunderland's first team next season.
The 27-year-old has made just 10 appearances for the club this season and has had to be on the sidelines watching first-choice shot-stopper Simon Mignolet.
Westwood has since been called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012, where he will be competing for a place with Aston Villa's Shay Given and Millwall's David Forde.
This season was the former Coventry player's first at the Stadium of Light, having made the move from the Ricoh Arena last summer.
But Westwood insists he is not put off by limited first-team opportunities and has vowed to compete for the No.1 spot next season.
He said: "It's made me stronger mentally as I have never had to deal with not playing before. I've kept my head down and worked hard.
"I am up for the fight next season but I know it will be difficult when only one keeper can play. The manager has to make a difficult decision and I want to make it even harder."
Westwood also admitted that the prospect of being with the Irish squad for the upcoming European Championship has motivated him.
He added: "The Euros have kept me going. I love playing for Ireland, it means the world to me, and I'm delighted, very proud to make the squad.
"I want to go there and keep Shay on his toes and be ready if I get a chance. He is the best keeper I have seen play for Ireland but I don't know if he has anyone pushing him.
"I just want to play. I'm 27 and sitting on the bench is not my cup of tea."