Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat has told the Sunderland Echo that he was not expecting Sebastian Coates to perform so well since he took charge.
Coates had been unreliable throughout the season prior to Advocaat's arrival, but he has looked solid ever since stepping into the starting line-up more recently.
Coates has played a key role in Sunderland's win over Everton and their draw with Leicester City, and Advocaat has been pleasantly surprised by his form.
"Nobody expected the way Coates would play," Advocaat said. “He’s been very solid in the last couple of games, so that gives him the confidence.When you come in (as head coach) then you have expectations for players.
"In the past he had hardly started a game. But we saw him improving in training and in some things I was not so happy with Santi, so I thought we’d put him in.
“He’s done well and that’s the reason why he is still playing.”
Advocaat's comments suggest that Coates could well be entrusted to stay in the backline over the remainder of the season.
Although John O'Shea is now fit again, the Republic of Ireland international faces a tough task forcing his way back into a defence that has helped Sunderland to keep two clean sheets in their last two fixtures.
If Advocaat does pick Coates it will be a big show of faith from the Dutchman, as the Black Cats have two massive games coming up.
Sunderland need to pick up a point from their last two games against Arsenal and Chelsea to secure their Premier League survival, otherwise they could be relying on Newcastle United and Hull City losing on the final day to stay up.