The Love of Goalkeeping
Goalkeeping has been a controversial and sometimes confusing topic for SAFC fans in recent years, so we thought we’d take a run down memory lane, covering all the saves and spills from the men between the sticks.
I’m in my teens, so Simon Mignolet is the first goalkeeper I can vividly remember watching. The Belgian was subject to great interest all across Europe, but SAFC won the race for his signature over such teams as PSV and Udinese. After a stop-start beginning to life in English football, he managed to secure his spot after pouncing on his opportunity to make it into the first team when first choice shot-stopper Craig Gordon suffered a knee injury, from then on he looked like an ever-present in the team. One of the most memorable moments for me being Sebastian Larsson’s apparent 40 yard own goal lob attempt in a home fixture against Everton, which was only just caught by Mignolet, who received a yellow card for catching a ball kicked by his own player.
Next up in this keeper review we have ohhhh Vito Mannone, one of the most memorable goalies for the majority of Sunderland’s younger fan base, as he is the man who saved a rather lazy final penalty from Manchester Utd right back, Raphael, to send Sunderland to Wembley for the first time since the game that shall not be named in 1998 in the play off final. Vito was mine, and many people’s heroes for a long time after this, with his contributions still fondly talked about to this day.
Next up, one of our own, although Jordan Pickford may have gone onto greater things, but he is still regarded as one of the best players to have come out of the Sunderland academy. Not only was his shot-stopping ability completely outstanding, in terms of his distribution he has to be one of the best in the world.
Now, this is the point where it all went very, very wrong in terms of goalkeeping quality. As we dropped down to the Championship, out went Pickford and Mannone and in came Jason Steele and Robin Ruiter, later to be joined in January by one of the most calamitous goalkeepers we have ever witnessed in a Sunderland shirt, Lee Camp. Jason Steele didn’t exactly get off to a dream start, a 5-1 home defeat in a friendly against Celtic a week before the season started.
However, Ruiter wasn’t much better, conceding two, identically saveable free kicks in quick concession in a home fixture against Millwall. However, once this dynamic duo became a trio in January, we realised that good goalkeepers were a thing of the past. Lee Camp was so dreadful in goal that I can’t recall a single good performance, however this was all about to change as two of these keepers left as we were relegated to the Third Division and were replaced by what seemed like, in comparison, a goalkeeping messiah.
Jon McLaughlin came in and instantly proved himself, despite conceding a well taken Lyle Taylor penalty, he looked solid against Charlton, giving us a glimpse of his lightning reactions and shot stopping abilities, throughout the season, he only got better, proving remarkable in most 1 on 1 situations and able to save long shots and react quickly to deflections and changes in the ball’s direction, he looks to be a solid keeper, and one that i would love to see at the club for as possible.
So generally, in my time watching Sunderland, apart from the nightmare trio in the Championship, we’ve had some pretty decent keepers…