He will soon have Craig Gordon fighting for his position but the Belgian did himself no harm at all with a tidy display that included a smart early save to deny Grant Holt.
There is nothing sophisticated about the Manchester United old boy and while he is defensively sound his surging run and cross that prompted Daniel Ayala's own-goal showed he is developing as an attacking threat as well.
The stand-in skipper ensured that the Norwich's aerial threat was nullified with an assured show, underpinned by excellent positional sense.
With competition for places intensifying the former Hull City defender put down a strong marker with a solid performance.
The Swede dragged an early chance wide and although he did not get on the scoresheet he looked a constant threat down the right wing.
At this rate Sunderland will struggle to keep hold of the livewire Benin striker who ran rings around the Norwich defence and finished off a sumptuous move that he started for the Black Cats' second goal.
He is improving at such a rapid rate of knots that he could very well end up at Euro 2012 with the Republic of Ireland but just needs to make sure his pace is allied to a better final ball.
More like his old self. He might be homesick but trademark attacking runs showed he is finally starting to really settle down under Martin O'Neill which bodes well for his future on Wearside.
He showed why Martin O'Neill was so keen to bring in a new left-back in the shape of Wayne Bridge because he looks as though he is a makeshift defender.
He helped make sure Sunderland gained the upper hand in the midfield exchanges with an simple-but-effective display and was always a willing outlet.
Talk about making up for lost time! On his first start since August 2010, he scored a beauty, set a fine goal up and was generally a menace to Norwich all night.
There was nothing he could do about any of Sunderland's goals and it could have been worse for his team but for a couple of fine saves.
He failed to get to grips with speed-merchant James McClean who ran the full-back ragged.
The last thing that Sunderland needed was a helping hand but that is what the centre-half gave his opponents with an own goal that capped an uncomfortable evening.
The on-loan Tottenham full-back will be hoping Spurs boss Harry Redknapp does not have enough time to study a DVD of this game because he was poor.
He looks like blonde former Sunderland defender Paul McShane but fortunately for Norwich the centre-half didn't play anything like him and yet he still found the going tough.
The midfielder struggled to get into the game once Sunderland went ahead.
Slow and ponderous, the former Leeds midfielder looked out of his depth and was taken off early in the second half.
He was a peripheral figure on a night when little if anything went right for the winger who spent most of his time chasing back.
He epitomises the Norwich spirit and although he never gave up he failed to really trouble the Sunderland defence despite a few decent tricks.
The former Millwall striker should put this one down to experience because he hardly got involved and must learn from the defeat.
He failed to show why Norwich rebuffed Rangers' approach for the targetman as he was anything but a handful for the Sunderland defence and failed to make the most of an early chance.
- 31 J. Steer
- 22 E. Ward
- 15 D. Fox
The former Huddersfield man hardly got a touch.
He helped shore things up but the game had been won and lost when he entered the fray.
He had a late cameo but failed to knock any of the Sunderland defenders out of their stride.