Sunderland youngster James Talbot has returned to Wearside early from a loan stint with National League North side Darlington FC having lost his place in the team following a costly error in a game with Alfreton Town.
Talbot - who has represented his country at U16, U17 and U19 level - is perhaps one of the more promising players in the entire system at Sunderland and the hope was that the spell away on loan at a competitive level of football would be the making of him.
The Irishman followed in the footsteps of fellow Sunderland academy product and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who spent a spell on loan with the Quakers back in the 2011-12 season.
Upon leaving Wearside in December - on a deal which was set to keep Talbot with the County Durham club until the end of the season - Talbot was immediately installed as their number one between the sticks, starting in six games and firmly establishing himself as a regular starter.
Then, disaster struck. As reported in the Northern Echo on January 13th, Talbot endured a moment of madness in a game with Alfreton Town which cost the Quakers a valuable three points, earning himself a red card in the process.
Immediately following that game Darlington signed Middlesbrough U23 goalkeeper Aynsley Pears, who has since taken Talbot’s place in the side and has suitably impressed.
As a result, and following the completion of the Irishman’s three match ban, the decision was taken by Darlo manager Tommy Wright to send back Talbot following a conversation with Kevin Ball;
I had a chat with Kev Ball at Sunderland. We have been doing really well, Tally made a mistake but we haven’t dwelled on it.
He’s actually gone back with a shoulder niggle, which I think has affected him a little bit.
Sunderland are going to keep him until the end of the season when his contract is up.
We spoke to Craig Stoddart, Deputy Sports Editor at the Northern Echo, to give us some insight into what went wrong for the stopper - and he indicates that he was simply a victim of some unfortunate luck;
Darlington were paying a percentage of his wages so couldn’t justify him being on the bench.
He’s been unfortunate because he’d done well and then lost his place when suspended. Aynsley Pears came in from Middlesbrough and has done really well, and Darlington couldn’t really justify dropping him once Talbot was available again.
What’s worse is that Talbot was unlucky to be sent off. He did hit the opponent so the laws of the game say he’s got to be sent off, but it was hardly a knockout blow. And he’d been provoked throughout the match, Alfreton were very physical. And Talbot’s (more of a dig in the ribs really) was a response to their player hitting him (which the referee didn’t spot).
Talbot - once he’s over the shoulder injury that he picked up whilst with Darlington - presumably now returns to make up part of the U23s roster of goalkeepers that also includes New Zealand international Michael Woud and Max Stryjek.