LEAGUE One fixtures might be the priority for Sunderland, but a run of three cup dates is proving to be the perfect platform for Laurens de Bock to prove his worth to new manager Phil Parkinson.

De Bock was back in the Black Cats team for the first time under Parkinson in midweek when Leicester City’s Under-21s won at the Stadium of Light in the EFL Trophy.

The Belgian defender hopes to keep his place for this afternoon’s FA Cup test against Gillingham and then again when they head to the group decider of the Trophy at Scunthorpe United on Tuesday.

Ordinarily playing in those matches could be perceived to be a negative because it tends to see fringe players getting a chance, but not for de Bock who is desperate to prove his worth to the new boss after recovering from an early injury in his Sunderland career.

“For yourself, you have to think you are a big part of the team,” said de Bock. “I came here to play games and everybody wants to play so I just want to show myself and get back to my fitness level and then we will see.

“In these games I have to show myself and take every opportunity he gives me. I’ll try to take it in these cup games, even if it isn’t easy to show yourself in these kind of games. I’ll just try to make the best of it.”

De Bock celebrated his 27th birthday on Thursday so he will hope to have a belated gift of a positive performance against Gillingham knowing how much he wants to succeed on Wearside.

He has had a frustrating time since moving to England with Leeds in January of last year, when he worked with three managers in a short space of time at Elland Road before heading to Sunderland on loan.

He spoke earlier this week of hoping history wasn’t about to repeat itself given how the man who took him to Sunderland, Jack Ross, was sacked just weeks after his arrival. He has, though, been impressed by Parkinson’s methods and way so far.

“I wasn’t so much involved when he first came in, so I’ve not got a big idea,” said de Bock. “But the idea I have now is that he’s really good for the team.

“He talks a lot and he wants to put out an organised team on the pitch. I think we needed that, with clear rules and it’s clear for everybody. Positive things, yeah.

“We have always had Tuesday and Saturday games (since he arrived), so we don’t have much time to work in the week on systems and tactics. I think when we have a break and we have a full week to work then we will improve again as a team.”

Parkinson will have examined de Bock closely already and will have learned how his impressive time at Club Brugge and Lokeren – which included Champions League football – were what resulted in him moving to England.

But since his switch to Sunderland he suffered an early injury blow in the defeat at Lincoln, his third appearance, having been a strong performer in two victories over Sheffield United in the Carabao Cup and then in the league against MK Dons.

“It’s been difficult because I didn’t really have that preparation before I played a few games and then I had this injury, I think because I didn’t have the preparation,” said de Bock.

“I just have to work hard now every day to get back to my level and it’s good now with these opportunities just to play 90 minutes again. I think I needed it and hopefully it will take me in the right direction here at Sunderland.”