New Sunderland left-back Bryan Oviedo is ready to step out of Leighton Baines’ shadow and dive into the relegation scrap

Sunderland players (left to right) Darron Gibson, John O'Shea, Brian Oviedo and Joleon Lescott back the club's Keep The Faith campaign at Penshaw Monument. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland players (left to right) Darron Gibson, John O'Shea, Brian Oviedo and Joleon Lescott back the club's Keep The Faith campaign at Penshaw Monument. Picture by Frank Reid

Bryan Oviedo is fit and ready to make his mark on Sunderland’s relegation fight, should David Moyes pick him in his side to face Crystal Palace.

The bottom-placed Black Cats travel to Selhurst Park tomorrow looking to claw back the three-point advantage that the third-bottom Eagles currently hold.

With Sunderland’s other relegation rivals facing daunting fixtures elsewhere, it is a major opportunity.

It’s a high-pressure situation, too, in which to make your debut, but left-back Oviedo is desperate to get in on the action.

Indeed, he had hoped to feature against high-flying Spurs on Tuesday, just a day after signing, only to be scuppered by work permit delays.

Asked if he hopes to make his debut at Palace, Oviedo said: “I hope so! I’m ready to play and excited to make my first appearance for Sunderland. We tried to [sort in time for Spurs], but a few things can happen quickly.

“We needed to do a new work permit, which was the problem because I travelled after training on Monday to Liverpool.

“I am so happy to be here, to have the chance to help the team, to play. It’s a very good opportunity for me and I’ll be working hard.”

Oviedo was taking in his new surroundings after racing up to sign for the Wearsiders on Monday afternoon.

The Costa Rican full-back yesterday visited Penshaw Monument with fellow new signings Darron Gibson and Joleon Lescott, as well as club captain John O’Shea, as part of the club’s Keep the Faith campaign to encourage fans to stick with the team in what has been another difficult season.

It was a sharp welcome to the North East, with gale force winds and a biting cold. Oviedo, however, is not fazed, and it is easy to see why he has such a reputation for being a great character to have around the club.

Loved by Everton fans for his attitude, work-rate and affable demeanour, as well as one or two winners against Manchester United, Oviedo is upbeat company.

He isn’t even too fussed about the weather: “Many people tell me about the weather, but so far it’s not bad! It’s similar to Liverpool, not much different.”

It is little wonder that the left-back is so enthusiastic about the move.

Sunderland struggled throughout January to convince players to make the switch to the Stadium of Light, with the perilous league situation convincing many targets to switch to sides in more comfortable positions.

For Oviedo, however, everything is surely set up for him at Sunderland.

He is playing for a manager he trusts, David Moyes, the man who brought him to the British game from FC Copenhagen in 2012.

With no other senior left-back in the squad, he is finally ready to be the main man after four seasons shadowing the irrepresible Leighton Baines.

On-loan Javier Manquillo filled the void on Tuesday night and coped well with Kyle Walker’s pace down Spurs’ right, but Oviedo is expected to take his place at Selhurst Park tomorrow.

The 26-year-old knows it is time to prove himself and put into practice what he has learned from years of competing with such a seasoned Premier League camaigner.

He said: “At Everton, I didn’t play as much as I want, sometimes and sometimes not. Here, I should have more chances to play and I will do my best to help the team get out of this position.

“I learned so much from Leighton, every time in training I did my best because if you have big competition you have to be at the same level.

“Every time I played I gave my best. I enjoyed it so much at Everton, but I’m so pleased to be here.”

Should Oviedo get the nod tomorrow, he will be making his debut opposite his immediate predecessor, Patrick van Aanholt.

Comparisons will be inevtiable. The Dutchman was always a talking point during his three years with Sunderland, attacking threat often undermined by defensive deficiencies.

It’s a conundrum Oviedo knows only too well, his defending the biggest question mark during his early years at Everton.

So does he feel he has got the balance right now?

“When I came here a few years ago, I needed to work on my defensive aspects,” he said. “My attacking was good but here it is different, I tend to be very focused in every game, concentrating on not making mistakes.”

If Sunderland are to stay up, Oviedo will have have to succeed in that endeavour and then some.

If he can start by showing the commitment that made him so popular at Goodison Park, he will be a popular figure no matter what.