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Make Your Case: Should Jason Steele be Sunderland’s 1st choice keeper in League One next season?

After string of impressive display’s and an injection of confidence, could the much maligned keeper lead an incredibly unlikely turnaround? Paddy and Damian go head to head to give their side of the argument - VOTE for who you agree with!

Fulham v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

@PaddyHollis123 - Steele for Number One!

It’s fair to say that this season Sunderland haven’t been blessed with a strong goalkeeping department. Yet the final few matches did show that our first choice keeper for next season is most likely sorted.

Jason Steele started this campaign as our main man between the sticks, but some poor performances meant that he lost his place to Robbin Ruiter in late August - only to return in late September in the 5-2 defeat at Ipswich. It wasn’t the greatest of comebacks and this run back in the side didn’t last too long either. Another exclusion from the squad followed and he wouldn’t return until early March; this being helped by Ruiter’s injury and Lee Camp’s poor form.

The chopping and changing of Sunderland’s goalkeepers this season has made it hard to find any consistency and, despite this article supporting Steele, I feel that if fit Robbin Ruiter would have kept his place in the side meaning Camp wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near the first team, or indeed the club.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Steele has made some pretty bad mistakes this season; I’m not sure anyone will know what was going through his head as he handballed outside the box at QPR, but towards the end of the season he’s done that little bit better.

The goals he conceded in the Burton and Fulham games were hardly his fault, and he made some decent stops in these matches, too. Steele has shown himself to be a confidence goalkeeper, and the clean sheet on the final day of the season would have done this confidence no harm whatsoever. This support of Jason Steele will be controversial, but he deserves some credit in a campaign littered with dire goalkeeping.

I’m not saying that Steele has been completely blameless; when he’s been dropped it has been because he hasn’t been good enough. Yet the various back line combinations haven’t made it easy for the club’s keepers, including Steele. Burton’s two goals, for example, could easily have been avoided if the man marking in our own penalty area was up to scratch.

Due to his long contract, Jason Steele will more than likely be on Sunderland's books next season. It’s not definite he’ll be our number one, but he has shown that he’s more than capable with recent performances.

It’s important for him to play behind a more competent back four, though; therefore, the improvement of Steele relies heavily on summer recruitment. He should stay, he has the potential to be a reliable goalkeeper. A period in the third division, like with many of our players, will not be a bad thing if it means they come back better and stronger.

Fulham v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

@RasTrentish - We need to do better!

He was signed on a four year contract after an uneventful spell with Blackburn Rovers, but he came into that team off the back of promising performances for Middlesborough in their previous campaign. I say promising - he won their young player of the year award in 2012 after featuring in every single game for them that season, and was voted player of the year by the North East writers the year after that. But things change a lot in four years.

My colleague is perhaps right then, when he claims Jason Steele is a confidence player that requires momentum. Trouble is we haven’t got the time or patience to let the lad have his head. Arguably he’s been given as many opportunities as we can give, and hasn’t really comported himself as being any better or worse than Ruiter or Camp - or at least not in any meaningful way that would help us solve the keeper conundrum with what we have on staff.

Derby County v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Goalkeeping isn’t easy, that’s for sure. Unlike outfield positions whereby the direct threat comes to a player from their counterpart on the pitch, the goalkeeper has a much more basic but arguably much broader remit because any professional footballer is capable of threatening the goal, and set pieces create situations where anyone has that opportunity.

It’s easy to feel sorry for them after the fact, particularly when the defensive line in front of them play such a huge role in their downfall yet are spared much of the blame for any goal conceded if the ‘keeper’s attempt to save it is anything less than heroic or physically unbelievable. They often get the short end of the stick. Really though, I’m stating this to highlight the very real fact that being in League One doesn’t automatically make your poor or inconsistent players capable, as much as we all like to believe it does. The ball will still travel at blistering speeds and the players are all professionals who spend their lives training to score.

That being said, simple physical ability isn’t the full measure of a goalkeeper. So much of their contribution is attributed to command of their defence, and you have to wonder if anyone was capable of marshalling a wizened John O’Shea and a daydreaming Lamine Kone, or a disastrous Galloway, or a green Clarke-Salter? And those are just one or two combinations witnessed in Sunderland AFC’s technicoloured defensive dreamcoat this season.

It’s an uphill struggle trying to organise a divided group so varied in their ability; is it reasonable to assume a successful transfer window with regards to that back line would make even the poorest of our ‘keepers look less so? I’m not sure. We’d certainly have less reason to distrust them, and if Paddy is right and Steele is a confidence player then he might not be someone I’d ideally like to see the back of.

In the end, being in League One doesn’t change the fact that better goalkeepers exist than we currently have available, and with the takeover bringing the promise of (comparatively) bulging coffers, and great expectations, one would hope we have a more consistent option available once the Summer transfer window has passed.


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