Being a goalkeeper is one of the toughest jobs in football, and it is a thankless task 99 percent of the time.
The goalkeeping position at Sunderland is one that has had many occupants in the last few years – and this season is no different.
Five years ago we had Jordan Pickford and Vito Mannone, a year after that we’d fallen to Lee Camp and Jason Steele.
This picked up in League One, with Jon McLaughlin sealing his place as Jack Ross’ number one keeper.
Lee Burge was the man to be given the gloves following McLaughlin’s departure and was hit and miss for most of that season and beyond.
Three players have represented us between the sticks since August, and all have had a pretty mixed bag.
Lee Burge started the season but made just four appearances before Anthony Patterson was given his first matches in red and white.
When new signing Thorben Hoffman arrived, he immediately became Lee Johnson’s number one for league matches, and Lee Burge became our cup keeper.
With this hierarchy sorted, Patterson headed out on loan to add to his first-team experience. While he was away, Burge and Hoffman both failed to convince.
Patterson was making a name for himself at National League side Notts County, but a covid outbreak back on Wearside led to him being needed back at his parent club.
He returned to a club that was enjoying a strong run in the league. Things quickly fell apart and although some of his displays showed a lack of experience, he was not helped by some woeful defending.
Despite Hoffman returning to full fitness, he has been unable to dislodge Patterson as Sunderland’s number one, with Alex Neil showing he trusts the young stopper.
During some of our worst displays, Patterson has made some top saves. He was dropped in at the deep end and he has grown in his performances since.
He now finds himself on a run of four clean sheets in his last five matches and has made saves that have undoubtedly kept us in the play-off race.
There were doubts in the summer over whether Patterson was ready to make the step up to first choice, and the fact that Hoffman dislodged him as soon as the German arrived backed up the view that he wasn’t a number one in Lee Johnson’s eyes.
After the turmoil of the injury and Covid crisis we went through following New Year, Patterson has kept hold of the number one spot, and deservedly so.
He still has a lot to learn, which is obvious given his young age, but he is showing plenty of potential as a goalkeeper we can trust moving forward.
The goalkeeping situation next season is hard to call at the moment, but judging on this campaign so far, Patterson has staked his claim to be an out and out number one.
With seven league matches left (hopefully with 10, including one at Wembley) Patterson will likely be between the sticks for most if not all of them – and I for one think this is the best way forward.