Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has sung the praises of Jordan Henderson as he contemplates life without the injured Lee Cattermole.
The combative midfielder was ruled out for three months after damaging his medial ligament during the victory over Liverpool.
Bruce believes local boy Henderson, who signed a contract extension until 2013 last week, and Holland international Bolo Zenden are ready-made replacements to fill the gap left by Cattermole.
The Sunderland boss is particularly impressed with Henderson, who has been involved in all but one of the club's 11 games to date this season.
Bruce told the Sunderland Echo: "We have a few options in midfield. We will miss him (Cattermole), but we have others who can step in.
"Jordan comes to mind. He came on (against Liverpool) and was terrific.
"It is your worst nightmare losing someone like Catts, especially with the size of the squad, but I am pretty comfortable that we can overcome it."
Bruce switched to the Stadium of Light from Wigan during the summer and said he was immediately taken by Henderson.
He said: "If there's one player who really, really jumped out at me when I arrived three months ago, it was Jordan.
"He has been involved in nearly every game we have played this year. I like him as a boy.
"He has got a big, big future, so we had to reward him, when he was in the first team squad repeatedly, we simply had to reward him and tie him up.
"We are delighted he has signed a four-and-a-half-year deal. He has got a big future."