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Anthony Patterson has never let Sunderland down - he has earned his status as #1!

Since being thrust into the starting eleven during our trip to Wycombe last season, Patto’s rise has been impressive. There is much more to come from him, and with time, he could become a hugely important figure at the club

Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Against Sheffield United last Wednesday, as Sunderland fought hard to draw level after playing for over sixty minutes with ten men, the ball fell to Oli McBurnie following a swift counter-attack - and at that moment it felt for all the world as though a third Blades goal was coming.

Despite the danger, McBurnie’s well-struck shot was tipped smartly round the post by Anthony Patterson in the Sunderland goal.

It was a classic reflex stop: adjust the feet, drop down sharply and get a firm hand to the ball. That save kept us in the game at a crucial stage, and it was another example of the immense talent that the young goalkeeper possesses.

Sheffield United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Despite that there do seem to be some lingering doubts over whether he is cut out for the rigours of Championship football - something that overlooks the raft of top-quality saves he has already made this season.

‘Loan him out’ is something you often hear regarding Patterson, but on what basis? The evidence of five league games, during which time he has largely been solid and reliable?

Granted, he is not the most physically imposing figure between the sticks, but he is blessed with excellent reflexes and impressive agility - and his ability with the ball at his feet is also improving.

You can see him developing a greater understanding and rapport with his defenders, particularly Danny Batth, and the clean sheet against Stoke on Saturday was hard-earned.

Could Patterson command his penalty area to a greater degree? Without a doubt.

Does he need to develop a more dominant and vocal streak, as well as the ability to organise, cajole, and occasionally give his defenders a rollicking when needed? Absolutely.

There are no weaknesses in Patterson’s game that cannot be addressed with some hard work on the training ground, and the arrival of Alessandro Barcherini as the club’s new head of goalkeeping is certainly going to help.

It’s common knowledge that the now-departed David Preece was a highly influential figure during Patterson’s early weeks and months as our first-choice goalkeeper, but Barcherini has an excellent reputation and he is sure to be pushing him every day in training, doubtless using some innovative and varied coaching methods.

Sunderland AFC

Perhaps some of the doubts about Patterson were borne out of the fact that he is not a ‘big-name player’ who arrived at the club in a high-profile transfer during the summer.

When promotion was confirmed in May, the game of ‘fantasy transfer shopping’ began in earnest, and everyone had their say on who we should be targeting.

In the goalkeeping department, fuel was added to the fire when names such as John Ruddy and Leicester’s Daniel Iversen were linked with a move to Wearside, but the arrival of Alex Bass from Portsmouth seemed to put the stamp on it: Patterson is our number one, and is going to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Personally, I felt that bringing in an experienced number two would have been a shrewd move, based on the established theory that the younger man could learn from his well-travelled deputy, but the club decided to go down a different route - and so far it’s worked well.

At 22, Patterson is relatively young for a first-choice goalkeeper in this league, but as with the majority of his teammates he hasn’t appeared fazed or overwhelmed by the transition from League One to the Championship.

It’s often very easy to tell whether a Sunderland player has the mental strength needed to play for the club, and he has ticked that box emphatically.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

During the playoff final - in front of 45,000 Sunderland supporters - he strode through the game with the composure of a veteran. Nobody can claim that his place in the team, nor his status as number one, has been handed to him by default.

He was granted an opportunity, took it, and hasn’t looked back.

Giving homegrown players their chance is a fundamental part of the club’s new ethos, and Patterson is a shining example. He’s a local lad made good, and at this stage we could only be scratching the surface of what he could achieve at Sunderland in years to come.

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