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Five Targeting International Recognition

With the latest international break almost over, we take a look at five Sunderland players not involved for their countries during this round of matches who should all be targeting a call-up next time around.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Sunderland players John O'Shea, Seb Larsson, Santiago Vergini, Steven Fletcher, Jozy Altidore and Costel Pantilimon were all selected for national duty by their respective countries in order to participate in the latest set of international fixtures, which have taken place over the course of the last few days and finish tonight before a return to domestic action.

Also, the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini, Ricky Alvarez and Sebastian Coates would have expected the call had they been fit and available. However, there are a number of squad members at the club who are more than capable of stepping up to that exalted level; whether they've fallen out of favour having previously figured or even if they've never been capped on the senior stage before now. We've picked out five who should all find themselves in the running by mid-November when the calendar throws up another break from Premier League action.

Dutch left-back Patrick van Aanholt has settled in well at the Stadium of Light following his move from Chelsea and will almost definitely be in Holland manager Guus Hiddink's thoughts come November after his side's shocking capitulation away to Iceland on Monday evening. His pace, willingness to overlap down the flank and ability to put in blocks and interceptions aplenty should give van Aanholt great hope of forcing his way back into the reckoning having been capped twice in late 2013 under Louis van Gaal.

Former club captain Lee Cattermole has been in the form of his life for Sunderland throughout the past nine months or so following Gus Poyet's decision to turn down a January bid from Stoke City for his services. Cattermole has taken to the role of defensive midfield lynchpin like a duck to water under Poyet's direction, becoming a key figure in the starting line-up since the Uruguayan arrived. His tackling, passing and overall positional play have all improved markedly and, after seeing lesser players gain call-ups recently despite a solid history of under-21 football, he surely cannot be ignored any longer should he maintain consistent form between now and the next round of international matches.

Italy are well-served for goalkeepers, with the irrepressible Gianluigi Buffon still clinging on to the number one jersey ahead of PSG shot-stopper Salvatore Sirigu. Vito Mannone has featured for the under-21 side, but is yet to be considered for senior duty; he's well aware that Buffon remains the main man, but would love to be involved even as third-choice 'keeper. It'll be incredibly difficult to displace Sirigu and Buffon as the top-two, but Mannone must be a realistic option for Antonio Conte as his third goalkeeper following a string of impressive displays since joining Sunderland in the summer of 2013.

Powerful striker Connor Wickham is another with a fine pedigree at under-21 level, who is still waiting to make the breakthrough into the senior England set-up. He began showing his true colours domestically towards the end of last season and looks to be continuing that rapid progress this term. He will find it hard to gain a spot in Roy Hodgson's squad in a month's time, but it's not out of the question. A flurry of goals similar to that which he achieved from mid-April during the last campaign would certainly put him at the forefront of Hodgson's mind behind the obvious selections of Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck if all are fit.

The big outsider is right full-back Billy Jones, who was said to be close to a call-up last year when performing well for West Bromwich Albion. Unfortunately, that opportunity failed to materialise, but his reliable showings for Sunderland could push him back into contention. With Santi Vergini moving into his favoured position of central defence, Jones has quickly established himself as first-choice in the right-back role at club level. Should he keep up his good form, he can expect a visit from Roy Hodgson to watch him in action prior to the next squad announcement.

There are a couple of other names to throw into hat for England including Adam Johnson and Jack Rodwell, but it seems Hodgson doesn't especially rate Johnson, while Rodwell still appears way short of match fitness and may have to wait until the New Year to push his claims - providing he can recapture the excellent form he displayed at Everton before a quite frankly disastrous move to Manchester City that meant he hardly played for two years. He has the talent, but needs to step up his performances by several gears to even cement a guaranteed spot in the Sunderland team prior to turning his attention to international matters.

What's certain, though, is that at least four or five of Sunderland's stars not currently involved with their national teams should be determined to produce high quality performances for the club, whilst utilising the aim of receiving a call-up as extra motivation to deliver consistently for the Black Cats. The way is open for all of them with their respective countries experiencing transitional phases at the moment. 

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