LAST Saturday, Jimmy Dunne sat on the Stadium of Light bench and soaked up the atmosphere as more than 35,000 fans watched a 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Seven days on, and the 21-year-old loanee is ready to start making his mark.

Dunne was an unused substitute as Sunderland drew with the Hatters, but while the Northern Irishman might have been frustrated at his lack of involvement having agreed to make a loan move from Burnley, experiencing a Wearside match-day was still a valuable experience.

The defender now knows exactly what playing for Sunderland entails, and while he might find himself amongst the substitutes again this afternoon, with Jack Ross understandably reluctant to split up his first-choice centre-half pairing of Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan as his side take on Scunthorpe United, he has caught the eye with his training performances at the Academy of Light this week.

“With how we’ve tried to change the culture here, he just feels right,” said Ross. “If you speak to the staff who met him very early when he came in last week and hear them speak about they view him and how he conducted himself, I think it was good for him to have that experience of watching from the bench on Saturday.

“As much as he’s at Burnley and he’s been on loan at Hearts, which is a big club, I don’t think you really appreciate this club until you’re in it and I think he was in a bit of a whirlwind for a few days.

“That allowed him to get a real feel for the club, to see the stadium with a big crowd in, and I think this week it’s almost been a case of him saying, ‘Right, that’s me, I’m here - now it’s time to get to work’.”

With Alim Ozturk having disappointed since joining in the summer, Dunne will provide some welcome defensive competition to Baldwin and Flanagan, as well as providing some balance on the left-hand side of the back four.

“Jimmy is very two-footed but he’s played a lot on the left-hand side and because he’s very comfortable on his left foot, that’s something we’ve not got from our other centre-halves so they have to play on their wrong side,” said Ross. “He is more comfortable on the left.”

Josh Maja is set to return to today’s starting line-up, having been forced to miss last weekend’s draw with Luton Town because of illness.

Lee Cattermole is available after completing a two-match suspension, and Chris Maguire will also be in the squad after his red card against Luton was overturned. Duncan Watmore returned to training yesterday but might not be risked in today’s starting side.

George Honeyman is still unavailable, and Donald Love and Glenn Loovens remain on the long-term absentee list.

Sunderland (probable, 4-4-2): McLaughlin; O’Nien, Flanagan, Baldwin, James; Gooch, Cattermole, Power, McGeady; Maja, Wyke.