LIVERPOOL manager Kenny Dalglish is pleased with the progress of summer signing Sebastian Coates -- even if the player cannot yet get a game.
The Uruguay centre-back, voted Best Young Player during his country's Copa America triumph in July, has made just three appearances so far this season.
He was pressed into action earlier than planned in the 4-0 defeat at Tottenham in September after Liverpool had two men sent off, but his only other games have come in the Carling Cup.
Competition is so strong in his position -- Jamie Carragher returned from injury last weekend but could only earn a place on the bench -- that the 21-year-old may have to bide his time.
But Dalglish is keen to ensure he learns as much as possible about the English game and the defender scored his first goal for the club in the reserves' 5-1 win over Sunderland in midweek.
"Coates got his first goal, which is great for him, and great for us," the Reds' boss said. "We are delighted with the way Seb is progressing.
"It is difficult to get him in the team at the moment because Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are playing so well and Carra is back from injury.
"But Seb has done really well and he is getting better all the time.
"I think he has settled in really quickly and did really well at Stoke (in the Carling Cup win). You are not going to get a sterner test and change in culture more than at Stoke with their style of play, which is unique to the Premier League.
"That was a great test for Seb because they played well that night and put us under a lot of pressure, but he came through that well and we are looking for him to have a long career here."
Dalglish also had praise for another member of his defence in Glen Johnson, who scored the match-winning goal at Chelsea last weekend.
The England international has had a difficult year, as he found himself playing out of position at left-back early in Dalglish's reign last season, while his start to this campaign was hampered by injury.
But the 27-year-old has returned to full fitness and Dalglish believes the player and the team are beginning to benefit.
Asked if the full-back had hit top form, Dalglish said: "He's playing really well but I don't know what anyone's best is. We are delighted with the way he's been playing."
And so to whether Johnson is England's best right-back, Dalglish added: "At the moment for us he's in the right-back position and that's the only team we want to pick. No one else tries to pick our team so why should we pick theirs (England)."