Despite links in the press earlier this month reporting that Chris Coleman was keen on securing the signing of Liverpool’s Danny Ward in a bid to bolster his goalkeeping options, word is that currently there are no plans from the club to bring in another stopper before the end of the current transfer window.
Ward - a Wales international - gained something of a reputation last season after achieving promotion to the Premier League whilst on loan at Huddersfield Town, but in the summer returned to make up part of Jurgen Klopp’s squad at Anfield and has barely seen a minute of game-time since.
Chris Coleman was the 24-year old’s manager for the Wales national team and is very aware of his abilities, but as it stands it is believed that there are no plans in place for Sunderland to recruit another goalkeeper, even despite the fact that we allowed third-choice Mika Domingues to leave the club on a free transfer.
Youngsters James Talbot (Darlington) and Max Stryjek (Accrington) are currently out on long term loans playing ‘mens’ football, meaning that the de-facto third choice ‘keeper currently at the club is New Zealand international Michael Woud, a regular in our U23s side.
Though Sunderland may not have been particularly successful in recent years we’ve always seemed to possess at least one very good goalkeeper. When both Jordan Pickford and Vito Mannone left for new clubs in the summer it was accepted that we’d struggle to adequately replace them - and, that looks to be the case as neither of their replacements, Jason Steele and Robbin Ruiter, have been able to put together a string of convincing performances so far this season.
It can be said that this run of decent keepers probably started back with Thomas Sørensen, and since then the likes of Thomas Myhre, Darren Ward, Craig Gordon, Marton Fulop, Simon Mignolet as well as Vito Mannone and Pickford have come and gone - consistent stoppers that will be long remembered by Sunderland fans everywhere, such was their professionalism and quality between the sticks.
The departure of Jordan Pickford in the summer had been on the cards for months; however, the sale of Mannone felt like one the club was forced into making due to financial reasons. It was surely related to wages, as Reading only paid a few million pounds in order to secure his services.
Either way - in hindsight - it would appear that allowing two decent goalkeepers to depart in one summer was yet another poor decision from the club.
Whilst initially the signing of Jason Steele in the summer looked to have been a fairly sensible one, it didn’t take too long for the Boro-born ‘keeper to show just why Blackburn might have been keen to see him leave - it would be fair to admit that the ex-England U21 international has been a rather poor acquisition, and has done little to warrant his inclusion in the Sunderland’s side.
His career on Wearside got off to a bad start when he conceded five in our pre-season friendly with Celtic, and it’s fair to say that his form and confidence hasn’t really improved since that miserable day.
So far this season we’ve conceded an amazing 47 goals in just 27 games (which is the worst in the league in case you were wondering). Of course, you can’t exactly lay all of the blame at the feet (or hands) of our keepers - especially when you consider how bad the players in front of them have been playing.
We know that we’ve been lacking in other key areas, too. The lack of a striker has often been the issue, but this decline in decent goalkeepers is a relatively new sinking feeling for Sunderland fans. We’ve become quite used to having good shot stoppers and it almost feels like we’ve taken it for granted.
Robbin Ruiter’s place in the side is fairly safe, though. If he can stay injury and suspension free, he’ll have no problem remaining in the side over the aforementioned Jason Steele - even despite the fact he often makes mistakes which lead to our opponents scoring soft goals. He’s not perfect, but of the two senior stoppers we have he’s the better player, and Chris Coleman has been fairly reliant on Ruiter since he was appointed as manager in November.
Our goalkeeping situation, at present, is a million miles from where it was last season. In Pickford and Mannone we had two keepers who deserved to play in better sides - I guess you can say they got what they deserved in the end.
The poor quality we’ve seen since their replacements stepped into their shoes perhaps highlights the lack of funds that we had at our disposal in the summer - a free agent and a League One player that wasn’t even getting into Blackburn’s team prior to arriving here. We shouldn’t have expected miracles, but the first half of the season has done very little to build the credibility of either stopper.
Whilst the news that we don’t have any plans to recruit a new goalkeeper won’t come as a shock to anyone, it does perhaps highlight the situation that we find ourselves in currently. The downturn in goalkeeping quality parallels our financial woes as we scrape the barrel in search of loans, freebies and cheap deals, hoping for the best.