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BLOG: Life Without Mannone - Where Do Sunderland Turn?

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With the lovable Vito Mannone likely to depart this summer, Graeme Atkinson looks at the options to replace him.

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Recent press reports are suggesting that we've received a number of enquiries concerning the availability of goalkeeper Vito Mannone.  While we don't know the extent to which this is true, it's likely that the former Player of the Year won't be happy deputising for Costel Pantilimon indefinitely.

He's already left former club Arsenal on similar grounds and given the excellent season Pantilimon has had it's difficult imagining him usurping the 6'8" Romanian anytime soon.  Therefore it wouldn't be too surprising if Vito exits soon, subject to the right offer being made for all parties.

So following recent speculation, let's take a look at a couple of the options available to us should Mannone leave the club.

Cue 21-year-old Academy prospect Jordan Pickford.  Is he a safe pair of hands?  Can he step up to the mark should Vito depart and we elect to promote from within? Or would we be better served signing a more recognised senior backup should the unthinkable happen and Pantilimon sustains a long-term injury?

Pickford is extremely well thought of at the club by all accounts.  Advocaat would do well to continue monitoring his progress closely.  The Washington born stopper has represented England at every level from U16 up to U20., and he's also excelled recently at the Toulon Tournament with the England U20 Squad, where he played in the same team as another excellent Academy product Duncan Watmore.  Pickford has also enjoyed some success out on loan to a number of lower league teams including League One side Carlisle United.

However if we're talking Premier League, he's an unknown quantity.  He could well become the next Jimmy Montgomery but what can't be known at present is just how well he'd handle the pressure of 40,000 plus and the bright lights of the big occasion.

You might argue that we'll never know until he's given that chance.  However, goalkeepers are either heroes or villains.  There is no middle ground and certainly no hiding place between the sticks.  Should Pickford need to be thrown into a huge pressure cooker environment, such as the derby, then it could potentially have catastrophic consequences for his development and our season.

Press reports have also linked Sunderland with a move for recently relegated goalkeeper Rob Green.  Perhaps some would say the 35-year-old QPR man has had an indifferent career. He's certainly made some high profile blunders, none more so than the shot from Clint Dempsey which he let slip through his hands during the World Cup 2010.

It's fair to say he initially got a rough deal at QPR though. Joining in June 2012 as one of their marquee signings, he was then quickly dropped, making way for a second high profile stopper arriving at the club in the form of Brazilian Julio Cesar.

However he eventually reclaimed his starting spot and, despite the Hoops dropping out of the Premier League, it can be argued Rob Green was one of the few highlights in their miserable season.  In fact, if we're being fair to Green he has on the whole, been a steady goalkeeper at the top level for a number of years now.

In recognition of this, more recent reports have even linked Chelsea with Green, suggesting he could deputise for Thibaut Courtois if Petr Cech move on.

So where does this leave Sunderland assuming Short and Congerton decide to cash in on Mannone?

Well, the sensible approach would be to loan out Pickford again but to a Championship club, where he can hopefully play every week and continue his development.  This leaves Congerton looking for a senior professional to come in as number two.

Whether Green is his man or not remains to be seen but it's hard to argue the former England stopper is not equipped to fulfil that role.  It's generally accepted that goalkeepers get better with age and Green still has some time on his side in that regard.  Perhaps his best years could be with us?

I can understand those that would be dubious of Green.  But, if we were taking the option with the least risk, then a seasoned pro would be the best scenario. However, it's difficult to ignore the element of excitement arising from the prospect of seeing another local lad in goal for the first team.

Depending upon whether Vito wishes to depart for pastures new in order to seek first team football or not, it might soon be time for Advocaat and Short to make their choice. Either go with someone who has some seniority and experience or plump for the youth and potential.  I know what I'd do, but then I'm not much of a gambler.