STEVE Bruce last night admitted Sunderlands fringe players had enhanced their claims for a regular starting spot during the Black Cats comprehensive Carling Cup win at Norwich City.
And the Sunderland boss could soon have two more players to choose from after defenders John Mensah and Ahmed Al-Muhammadi edged closer to a move to the Stadium of Light.
Teemu Tainio and Andy Reid were both on the scoresheet as the Black Cats cruised to a 4-1 win at Carrow Road, with the likes of Craig Gordon, Paulo Da Silva, Grant Leadbitter and Fraizer Campbell also impressing as Bruce made nine changes to the side that beat Blackburn last weekend.
Da Silva and Campbell both arrived at the Stadium of Light this summer, and Bruce will increase his squad further in the next 48 hours.
Mensah will complete a season- long loan from Lyon once his visa is stamped, while Al- Muhammadi will also join for the rest of season from Egyptian side Enppi.
The 21-year-old Egypt international, who plays most of his football at right-back, will sign a season-long loan, with Arabic sources claiming Sunderland are paying £500,000 to secure his services until May, with the option of a longerterm deal next summer.
The boy Muhammadi could be coming in, confirmed Bruce. Were looking at that at the moment but it will be a loan deal, a seasonlong loan deal. He would be one for the future I would say.
John Mensah is waiting for his visa to be stamped and we hope to bring him to the club over the next two or three days. Whether we go for anything else as well, well see.
Bruce watched his shadow Sunderland side score three goals in ten first-half minutes last night as Norwich were comfortably outplayed.
Tainio opened the scoring midway through the first half, before Reid added two more goals before half-time, the first a sublime individual effort and the second an eyecatching team goal.
Wes Hoolahan pulled one back for the Canaries shortly after the hour mark, but Sunderlands place in round three was confirmed when Owain Tudur Jones diverted the ball into his own net for the Black Cats fourth.
Bruce was delighted to progress in a competition that could offer his side real possibilities this season, and admitted a number of players had given him food for thought as he ponders his starting line-up for Saturdays trip to Stoke.
Its always nice to get through thats what we were here for, said the Black Cats boss, who confirmed Campbell had suffered no serious damage from a late collision with former Sunderland goalkeeper Ben Alnwick.
Its nice to be in the hat and the good thing about the game was that it gave everybody a chance to play. We left a few at home but we brought a good squad and I was delighted with the team.
Some of them are clearly itching to be in the first team and they did all I asked of them.
I have only been here for two months and the longer you see the squad, the better it is. All of the players have come to the party in some way or another and asked a few questions.
There are five or six knocking on the door big style to try to get in the team.
Bruce reserved special praise for Reid, who has shed almost nine kilos of weight since the end of last season.
No one ever doubted his ability, but the one thing you have been able to level at him over the years is his physical condition, he said.
I think hes now lost something like 22mm of body fat.
The penny has dropped that you have to be like that to play in the Premier League.