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Reports: Watford and two other clubs want Mannone; Bilic not surprised by Sunderland struggles

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In this evening's news roundup: Watford are amongst a trio of clubs said to be interested in Vito Mannone; Saturday's opposition manager Slaven Bilic says he isn't surprised by Sunderland's struggles; Jordan Pickford is up for a prestigious award & Rio Ferdinand has included a trip to the Stadium of Light in a list of his most memorable games.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Three clubs want Mannone

According to transfer gossip site TMW, three clubs are interested in signing Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone this summer.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The report suggests Watford will battle Italian outfits Genoa and Atalanta for the 29-year-old at the end of the season.

Mannone has had a difficult campaign at the Stadium of Light. Initially losing his spot as number one due to an injury picked up in August, the Italian-born stopper has since been unable to permanently wrestle the goalkeeping jersey back from Jordan Pickford.

The young England goalkeeper has impressed during an otherwise dismal Sunderland campaign and was injured himself during January and February, but reclaimed his place from the Italian as soon as he returned.

Mannone has been a good servant to Sunderland, the club at which he has been for close to four years. Highlights include the Capital Cup run to Wembley in 2014 during which the 'keeper, who has been in England since the age of 17, earned the Supporters Player of the Season award.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg
Vito Mannone mobbed after saving a penalty in the Capital One semi-final at Old Trafford in 2014
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Low points include an eight-goal thrashing at Southampton during the 2014-15 season and his recent foray into the first team in which Mannone produced some shaky showings, conceding 15 goals in his 7 games back starting between the sticks.

As with all gossip emerging from Italy about Sunderland's Latin duo, caution is urged. Hot on the heels of a story linking Fabio Borini with a move, it's quite possibly little coincidence that rumours about Mannone surfaced within hours. Particularly considering the pair are both represented by former Director of Football Roberto De Fanti.


Bilic says his side have their confidence back

Slaven Bilic has billed Saturday's match with Sunderland as a "big big game" and warned David Moyes that his side have their confidence back ahead of the 3pm clash.

West Ham United v Sunderland - Premier League
Slaven Bilic and David Moyes during the first encounter between Sunderland and West Ham this season
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The West Ham boss has come under renewed pressure of late as his side lost five games on the bounce prior to last weekend's victory at Swansea. Previewing this weekend's trip to the north east, Bilic believes the Hammers have their mojo back:

It's a big game for us. We beat Swansea which was also a big big game and now we're approaching the second one.

Every game is big and Sunderland are in a situation that they are desperate for a win and that's why it's a big game for them, but it's also a big game for us.

So yep, it's a big game then, but Bilic reckons the stakes are just as high for his side as they are for a Sunderland team circling the drain right now:

We are looking forward to that game to secure, or getting closer to securing, our Premier League status.

Every win gives you a boost, especially if you are doing it in such a big game as we had against Swansea, after five defeats in a row. Of course the confidence is back.

Now we have the confidence back, we need to build on that and not lose again.

And the West Ham boss says he isn't surprised to see the Black Cats struggling so badly this season despite appointing an experience manager in the summer:

Nobody expected in the beginning when David Moyes took over that they would suddenly be safe just because they appointed a big name and a great manager. They already have had big name managers, be they Big Sam or Dick Advocaat, who are massive names in the world of football, and they somehow managed to stay up in the last few seasons. Sadly for them and unfortunately it has become a common situation for them.

And ultimately, Bilic believes it comes down to how weak this Sunderland squad is:

I know David Moyes is a top manager....but the manager can only do as good as his set of players.


Pickford up for gong

Yet more glorious recognition for Jordan Pickford as the Sunderland goalkeeper has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

Sunderland v Burnley - Premier League
Crying in the rain, Jordan Pickford last month
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The 22-year-old has excelled between the sticks at the Stadium of Light in his breakthrough season and is one of six nominees alongside Delli Alli, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Leroy Sane and Michael Keane - a hall of fame representing the best in the Premier League this season.

With top-tier status looking ever more perilous Sunderland are increasingly likely to lose the Washington-born stopper in the summer. His displays have attracted the attention of every member of the traditional top-six in English football and the player himself has already indicated he may need to leave the Stadium of Light to fulfill his ambitions, telling Football Focus last week:

I've got ambitions and I want to be the best I can be and that's to be in the Premier League as well.

Pickford has faced more shots per game and made more saves per game than any other goalkeeper in the top flight this season and has been one of the few standout performers for Sunderland.

Delli Alli is favourite to receive the gong which has been awarded in English football every season since the mid-1970s.


Ferdinand recounts the Poznan game

Wayne Rooney vowed revenge, Alex Ferguson later admitted it was the low-point of his career, and last week some petty Manchester United fans were still harping on about it on social media.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League
A dejected Wayne Rooney at the Stadium of Light in 2012
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

It was the game in which Sunderland supporters mocked their visitors from the north west when Manchester United discovered they had lost the title to their city rivals. That was May 2012, the afternoon in which Mackems jigged the 'Poznan' at the Stadium of Light as Manchester City claimed the Premier League crown.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League
Sunderland fans doing their infamous 'Poznan' in 2012
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Now in an interview with FourFourTwo Rio Ferdinand has recounted that afternoon in the Wearside sunshine,

Losing the league on the last day of the season to Manchester City was a big negative. You just stand there, stamping your feet, thinking, ‘It’s not fair’ like a kid. How can football be so cruel? We’d beaten Sunderland and won the title, then two minutes later, you’re on your knees, dead.

Bless.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League
Rio Ferdinand commiserates with Manchester United fans after losing the title at Sunderland in 2012
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images