The Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson could get his big opportunity after Lee Cattermole was ruled out for three months.
The 19-year-old, who signed a contract extension until 2013 last week, may find himself thrust into the heart of Steve Bruce's midfield while the manager attempts to find cover for his £6m enforcer.
Bruce confirmed yesterday that Cattermole damaged his medial ligament during last Saturday's 1-0 Premier League victory over Liverpool and will be out for at least 12 weeks.
That has come as a huge blow to the Black Cats, who have seen the former Middlesbrough and Wigan player form an excellent central-midfield partnership with Lorik Cana.
However, Bruce is confident that in the shape of Henderson and Holland international Bolo Zenden, who signed a short-term contract at the Stadium of Light last week, he has ready-made replacements.
The manager said: "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 comfortable that we can overcome it."
Henderson has been involved in all but one of the club's 11 games to date this season – he was an unused substitute for the other – after impressing Bruce following the manager's arrival from Wigan in the summer.
The Sunderland-born player, who made his senior debut against Chelsea last year, has emerged from the club's academy to stake his claim with a series of assured displays.
Bruce 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've 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 tie him up. We are delighted he has signed a four-and-a-half-year deal. He has got a big future."Reuse content