Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has hailed the impact being made by Matthew Bates.
The 22-year-old defender has been plying his trade in midfield in recent weeks and has turned in a number of impressive displays.
Southgate may be forced to drop him back into defence for Saturday's game with Portsmouth, due to injuries, but he insists he has no qualms about continuing with him in midfield.
"Matthew is an intelligent footballer and he reads the game well," he said.
"He is more comfortable in possession than a lot of defenders in terms of receiving the ball.
"There's a lot to work on and it is very early stages but, certainly, it gives you somebody with a bit more of a defensive mind in there, and that gives a player like Julio Arca a bit more freedom to attack."
Bates may be forced to drop back due to an injury concern over Justin Hoyte - if he does not make it then Boro would have the option of either bringing in Tony McMahon as a straight replacement or moving Josh Walker into midfield.
Assistant manager Matthew Crosby added: "Hoyte has been having treatment.
"He's a doubt for the weekend at the moment, but we'll have to wait and see.
"We've been delighted with Matthew Bates' contribution in midfield, but I still believe that he is a very good defender.
"He's an intelligent footballer and he understands what's needed wherever you play him, and adapts immediately."