Over the years, we’ve often been blessed with good goalkeepers at Sunderland, and with the exception of the 2018/2019 season, many high quality shot stoppers have stood between the posts on Wearside.
I’m thinking of Thomas Sorensen, Simon Mignolet, Craig Gordan and Jordan Pickford, among others, who’ve all played their part for the club on the biggest stage of Premier League football.
This young generation of Sunderland footballers, against all the odds, are attempting to create their own bit of history by elevating the club back to the top flight.
Watching this team play is good for the soul, and during a season where expectation levels were somewhat diluted given that we’d only just returned from League One, they’ve progressed beyond the expectations of the fans.
Watching players like Jack Clarke, Trai Hume and Edouard Michut has been a breath of fresh air.
Also, watching young academy products come through the ranks to become integral to the first team is even more pleasing, and nobody epitomises this more than today’s birthday boy, Anthony Patterson, who’s developed into such a key player in this young and vibrant Sunderland team.
I recall Patterson making one of his very first appearances for the club against AFC Wimbledon in League One last season. Despite being a touch eager to impress, I was so impressed with the composure he showed on the ball and it was clear at that stage that the potential was there.
A few months on, a loan spell at Notts County provided the young goalkeeper with a opportunity to play regular games after we’d signed Ron Thorben Hoffman on loan.
Fast forward to January 2021, and the injury crisis that had hampered us led to Patterson’s return to the team.
He was thrown into the firing line against Wycombe Wanderers away from home, a place where no goalkeeper likes to play. Their physicality certainly tested Patterson that day, but it likely did a lot for him as well.
From that point on, he excelled, and the appointment of Alex Neil was a massive ‘sliding doors’ moment in his career.
The Scot - somewhat surprisingly - showed full faith in the young goalkeeper, giving him the number one position for the rest of the season and all the way to Wembley.
Neil’s faith in him was repaid many times over with his performances in the promotion run in. His saves against Oxford, along with Wycombe in the playoff final, proved vital as we finally gained promotion.
As this season has progressed, it’s safe to say that Patterson has secured the number one spot as an ever present in the team.
His whole game has come on leaps and bounds and such has been his progress that he’s currently being linked with moves to Premier League clubs such as Leicester City (although it may turn out that the two clubs will be going in different directions).
Along with the links with Premier League clubs, his form was recognised internationally when he was called up to the England U21’s squad, which prompted Tony Mowbray to lavish praise on his young goalkeeper.
It’s richly deserved, I think.
He’s obviously played in some pretty big football matches for the club and has done exceptionally well and continues to do exceptionally well.
That’s down to the personality really, the traits he brings, the calmness. Some goalies are a box of frogs always shouting about, jumping, screaming at everyone. And then you have a band of goalies who are super calm and cool and know how to do their job. Then you get brilliant goalies who are both.
Anthony is just a big steady guy who’s really good at keeping the ball out of his net and dealing with crosses. He’s got areas of growth as you’d expect of a young goalkeeper, and his distribution at times needs to be worked on and is getting worked on.
But he doesn’t have many, what I would call faults. It’s amazing to think of what he’s going to be like when he’s thirty and has still got six to eight years still to play when he’s so young now and so good at what he does. He obviously has a big future.
Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks, this season has been a truly amazing one. It’s seen young players reach new levels as well as becoming leaders on the pitch.
In Patterson, we could have our number one goalkeeper for the next decade, and let’s hope we do, as it would mean we’re in the Premier League.
Happy Birthday, Patto!