LEE Cattermole will resume his duties as Sunderland captain once he recovers from the hamstring injury, which rules him out of a return to his hometown club.
But Martin O’Neill believes he has two skippers in his ranks, with John O’Shea proving a more than able deputy for Cattermole.
Former Middlesbrough midfielder Cattermole will miss his fourth successive game through injury tonight, with the 23-year-old also expected to be ruled out of Saturday’s clash with Arsenal.
As he has done on nine occasions during the campaign, O’Shea has led the Black Cats in Cattermole’s absence and boss O’Neill believes the Irish international’s experience is having a significant bearing on Sunderland’s ranks.
O’Neill said: “I have two captains. John is a different type altogether.
“His willingness to help the younger lads is very important, they can approach him. There are no airs and graces about him. He’s been very helpful in the dressing room.
“When Lee is fit and available and back in the team he will become captain again. Lee’s been playing wonderfully well for us, and would have loved to have played tonight, but it wasn’t to be.”
O’Shea has become influential both on and off-the-pitch under O’Neill, with the 30-year-old getting back to his best after moving to centre-half and ridding himself of the injury problems which plagued him earlier in the campaign.
“He is doing very, very well,” added O’Neill.
“Of course we are going to concede goals, but we’ve done very well in that aspect recently.
“He and Wes Brown have been terrific. They’ve tried to help the young players, maybe it’s because of their upbringing.
“O’Shea’s whole demeanour around the place has been very helpful indeed. I’m delighted he’s started to play the way he did for Manchester United.
“He had a few injuries to contend with and that is definitely off-putting. You don’t feel as if you’re absolutely right.
“John has done very well at centre-half, but I’m not sure what the answer would be if I asked him what position he prefers. At this moment, needs must.”