Homegrown Sunderland prospect Jordan Pickford is earmarked to provide the back-up to Costel Pantilimon, if Vito Mannone leaves the Stadium of Light.
There are big question marks over Mannone’s Sunderland future this summer just 12 months after the Italian was crowned the club’s Player of the Season.
It is understood that Sunderland have received several enquiries over Mannone’s availability over recent weeks and the Black Cats could be prepared to sell if the price is right.
TURN TO PAGE 46
Mannone, who has another two years to run on his Sunderland contract, is thought to be keen to play regular first-team football, rather than remaining as a bit-part player, as he was at former club Arsenal.
There was speculation over the weekend that Sunderland could make a move for England international stopper Rob Green after QPR’s relegation from the Premier League last season.
But Sunderland will NOT be in the market for another stopper even if Mannone does leave the Stadium of Light.
It is thought that academy product Pickford will be given his chance as the club’s number two goalkeeper by head coach Dick Advocaat, to allow the 21-year-old to continue his progress.
Pickford, who has been part of the England Under-20 side at the Toulon tournament, is very highly-rated by the club’s coaching staff and after loan spells at League One and Two outfits Bradford, Carlisle and Burton over the last two seasons, he will now become part of the first-team squad.
Sunderland believe Washington-born Pickford can provide adequate cover for Pantilimon and eventually compete for the number one spot.
But at present, Pantilimon is very much regarded as the club’s first-choice stopper after excelling since ousting Mannone, following last summer’s Bosman move from Manchester City.
Mannone had begun the season as number one, but lost his place to Pantilimon last November and was then restricted to just four subsequent first-team appearances - only one of which was in the Premier League.
Pantilimon, meanwhile, kept 11 clean sheets from 28 Premier League starts.