In the buildup to Simon Grayson’s first season in charge of Sunderland, many things were changing at the Stadium of Light.
With an abundance of players who were desperate to leave, Grayson was faced with the challenge of trying to build a squad that could compete in the division. One major issue was ensuring that he could find two goalkeepers who would bring solidity to a backline that had been shaken by the debacle that was their 2016/2017 season under David Moyes.
In an attempt to resolve this issue, Grayson secured the signings of Jason Steele, and on this day in 2017, Dutch goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter.
Ruiter had already been on trial for a couple of weeks, and must have impressed the management sufficiently enough for him to be offered a contract.
In addition, his CV appeared to be that of someone who had vast experience of playing at a decent level. He had played over two hundred games in Dutch football, with almost 150 of them coming with FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie.
Upon signing for Sunderland, he insisted that it was a dream come true to play in English football.
I’m very pleased to be here because I had a great couple of days training with the team and played some good games, so I really wanted to sign and pleased I’m finally a Sunderland player.
From the moment I stepped through the door everything was so professional. It’s such a big club and for me it was always a dream to play in England, so if a club like Sunderland comes and asks if you want to sign, it’s a big chance.
Ruiter started the 2017/2018 season as an understudy to Steele, however, due to a substantial number of poor performances and injuries suffered by the Englishman, it was not long before he got his chance.
Unfortunately, things did not improve with the Dutchman in goal.
Our failings were highlighted during the 2-2 draw with Millwall, a game during which he let in two comical goals. In truth, it summed up the sort of season that the club was having.
In the aftermath of that game, Ruiter’s fortunes didn’t improve, as he succumbed to a nasty injury in early 2018 which essentially ruled him out for the rest of the season. A broken wrist left him sidelined for twelve weeks, which opened the door for Steele and Lee Camp to take over in what appeared to be a cursed position.
When Sunderland were eventually relegated to League One, Ruiter remained on Wearside and played second fiddle to Jon McLaughlin, who took over as first-choice goalkeeper after being signed by Jack Ross.
Ruiter eventually left the Stadium of Light after two years and returned to Holland, where he joined Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in 2019.
Whilst at the club, the Dutchman played a central role in the Netflix series, ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’, as the cameras followed him and his family’s journey as they settled in the North East.
Ruiter has subsequently restated his admiration and love for the club, and did not rule out a possible return, though this notion may not have been welcomed by the fans.
In addition, the Dutchman wasn’t happy with the way the documentary framed his first season at Sunderland.
Last season I played a few mediocre matches, and two very bad ones. One was against Millwall, then I got a classic ball through the posts, a giant deflection. Well, those pictures were of course in the series.
But I had good matches in goal too, kept five clean sheets. I was on form until my injury, that would be a storyline in one of the episodes, but when I looked at the series, I did not notice it.
In fairness, he wouldn’t be alone in bearing grievances towards the documentary, and how it portrayed some of the players at the club.
In the last few days, Ruiter completed another transfer, when he signed for Camburr in Holland.