Since Ron-Thorben Hoffmann made his debut in the win against Accrington, he has come across as an individual who ‘gets’ what it means to be a Sunderland player.
I have seen him several times now, and he clearly revels in the atmosphere of the Stadium of Light. At the end of games, he has always been one of the last to leave the field, showing his appreciation of the crowd and enjoying the adulation that he is deservedly receiving.
At first, I thought it may have been wishful thinking on my part.
Jon McLaughlin aside, we have endured some truly awful custodians of the net in recent seasons. As a former amateur goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach, it has been painful to watch.
We have been fortunate to have been blessed with some wonderful keepers in our relatively recent past - the inimitable Monty, Barry Siddall, Chris Turner, Mart Poom, the eccentric Lionel Perez, the much-missed Marton Fulop, Craig Gordon, Simon Mignolet, Vito Mannone and Jordan Pickford have all played their part, often covering up for the deficiencies of the teams in front of them.
But Hoffman puts me in mind one of our former gloved heroes more than any other - Thomas Sørensen.
Young, relatively unknown and unheralded, Sørensen had a confidence that belied his age and experience, and Hoffman shows exactly those same traits.
Sørensen went on to become one of the truly great Sunderland keepers, undoubtedly deserving of his place among the pantheon of the club’s No. 1’s.
So it was fascinating, on the day we travelled to Crewe to watch a deserved 4-0 win, to read the young German’s account of how and why he joined Sunderland.
It brought home that deadline day uncertainty is not just a trial for the supporters. For players, whose livelihoods and future prospects depend on what happens in a few short hours, it is even more fraught.
What came across much more deeply than anything else in that article was Hoffman’s clear understanding of the club he was joining, the history, the potential, and the connection with the fans.
It was also a testament to the maturity of the young man who, hopefully, will take his place between the posts at Sunderland for more seasons than just this one.
Looking out across the turf at the end of his first few games, I came to a judgement about Ron-Thorben Hoffman. In light of what has happened since, it is one that I am more than happy to stand behind.