LAMINE KONE has been told he has a huge part to play in keeping Sunderland in the Championship this season after proving he has the character to help out.

Kone was expected to leave afer relegation from the Premier League last summer, and again during the January transfer window.

Instead, though, the Black Cats couldn’t reach an agreement with any of the interested parties, while injury has also restricted his appearances this season.

After returning to the team at Bolton in midweek to add a bit of experience, manager Chris Coleman is ready to give him a run in the side to try to help a survival charge – and he has no concerns whatsoever.

“Lamine’s here come what may until the end of the season, there is nothing both parties can do about that,” said Coleman. “The best way to spend that time is to be working hard for the team and for himself and playing as much football as he can.

“His attitude has been great and the other night he was very, very good. He’s shown a good attitude in training and that’s what he needs to do between now and the end of the season.

“I think he will do that, I don’t see him having any other attitude. We welcomed him back the other night and he worked hard. We will need Lamine between now and the end of the season.”

Kone was a £20m target for Everton not so long ago and a lack of first-team football and consistency has seen his valuation plummet; with Sunderland’s perilous position at the foot of the second tier hardly helping ahead of this summer either.

Coleman is confident the Ivorian can get better after his solid return: “He’s a big strong boy, his attitude’s been first-class. Certainly in the last two or three weeks he’s worked really hard to get fit.

“He played for us at St Andrew’s. It was his first game when he probably wasn’t that fit but we needed him when he was not at his fittest.

“Since then he had a little bit of a problem and now he’s back and the other night he looked really good with Jake Clarke-Salter and John O’Shea. I thought they all looked good. He’s that physical presence in both boxes but he can be a big help to us. I think he will be important to us.”

Sunderland need to come up with a way of staying up with the players Coleman has at his disposal now, with no room for manoeuvre on the transfer front.

A defeat to Middlesbrough today could see the three-point gap to safety extended, while they are already propping up the rest of the division.

Coleman, who denied social media claims that Bryan Oviedo refused to sit on the bench a week ago after not being named left-back, said: “Double relegations – one relegation is bad enough, especially for a club this size, so double doesn’t bear thinking about.

“It’s happened at big clubs before but you are always hoping and praying it’s not going to happen to your club. That’s what everybody is going to be talking about, that’s what everybody wants to stay immersed in because of the situation we are in, which is negative. But that’s what we have to deal with. We are where we are.”

Sunderland could have Adam Matthews back in the squad to face Boro after returning to training. Midfielder Ovie Ejaria is also being assessed.