Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton has urged whoever replaces Wes Burns at Sunderland to stake their claim for a regular starting spot.
Burns was sent off against Bradford City last weekend with Town losing their subsequent appeal against the 23-year-old’s red card.
It means Barton will be forced into a change, having named the same starting XI that won at Scunthorpe United for the draw at Charlton Athletic and last Saturday’s victory.
Barton said: “It’s disappointing because he (Burns) has been playing great.
“He has been a real asset for us but it is an opportunity for somebody else and we will find another way to win.
“When you are winning you don’t have as many selection headaches because it takes care of itself.
“Unless there is something drastically tactically different that we want to do.
“In the last few weeks a team will organically find its own balance and in the last few weeks we have found that.
“With Wes being out, enforced by the suspension, it does give someone else an opportunity.
“If they get in the side and the side continues its upward momentum, it might be difficult for Wes to get back in.”
Burns is missing for three games but, for good measure, is also suspended for Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy tie against Leicester City.
Barton acknowledged it is a strange situation but one he will not unduly fret over.
He said: “I spoke to Steve Curwood (chief executive) for clarification when the ruling came through.
“A three-game ban is now a four-game ban because you are not counting a competition.
“Yet if we were to rotate and play a load of kids we would be sanctioned for the same thing? It is a strange one but the rules are the rules.
“There are a lot of things that happen in theory that don’t work in practice.
“It is what it is, I’m not going to sit here and complain because it is just wasted energy.”