Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips believes Black Cats manager Lee Johnson’s hunger for a new goalkeeper to arrive at the Stadium of Light is a sign he’s desperate for promotion this year, speaking in an interview with Football Insider.
First-choice shot-stopper Lee Burge and academy graduate Anthony Patterson are the Wearside club’s two senior options in the goalkeeping department as things stand, with a recent injury to the former highlighting the lack of experienced depth they currently have in this area.
As a potential remedy to this issue, AS Monaco goalkeeper Vito Mannone has been linked with a return to the Stadium of Light, four years after departing the club to join second-tier side Reading.
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He joined his current side from the Royals on the expiration of his contract at the Select Car Leasing Stadium in 2019 – but has only made nine French top-tier appearances for Nico Kovac’s side and might be tempted by regular minutes in League One – potentially becoming first-choice on Wearside despite Burge’s impressive performances last term.
The Sun journalist Alan Nixon confirmed the League One side’s desire to recruit a new goalkeeper last Monday and after bringing in seven senior signings so far this summer, they want to bring in ‘one or two’ more to give themselves the best possible chance of getting back to the Championship at the fourth time of asking.
One of those additions could be a goalkeeper – and ex-Sunderland man Kevin Phillips believes this search for a shot-stopper is indicative of where manager Lee Johnson wants his side to be at the end of the 2021/22 campaign.
Speaking to Football Insider, the 48-year-old said: “It gets to a point where you cannot mess about anymore.
“You need to get points on the board early. Lee Johnson is not afraid of making big decisions. If it needs to be done, it has to be done. It is as simple as that.
“As a player you have to accept it, work hard on the training ground and try and get back in.
“I think the search for a new goalkeeper tells you that Lee Johnson is not messing about this season. He is desperate to win promotion this year.
“If he has to make big decisions in the first month of the season, so be it. It is not a personal thing, it’s done for the team.”
Although not adding a goalkeeper wouldn’t be the end of the world with Patterson able to fill in for a top-quality shot-stopper in Burge, a goalkeeper could give them the depth and competition they need to maintain performance levels and provide adequate depth.
Vito Mannone would be a great option to pursue and would only go on to increase morale if he returns to the Stadium of Light, due to how fond many Black Cats supporters are of him from his previous spell at the club.
After training with his AS Monaco teammates, he is likely to be sharp despite his lack of playing time in France. But this deal would depend on the Ligue 1 side’s willingness to let him go and the wage demands Mannone could make after previously playing with Sunderland in the Premier League.
You would certainly agree with Kevin Phillips that this reported desperation to improve their goalkeeping department is a signal of intent to the rest of the league, especially with other clubs including Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday bringing in numerous high-quality signings this summer.
Johnson’s side may have had a slow start to the summer, but one or two new signings with a goalkeeper potentially coming in would cap off what has been a reasonably successful transfer window at the Stadium of Light.