Throughout our history, it’s always seemed like the goalkeeping department has been a strong point for us - barring a chaotic and catastrophic few years in more recent times.
Nowadays, we are blessed to have one of our youngest and brightest talents between the posts. However, when one reflects back over time, the number of goalkeepers who ended up having fruitful careers is quite impressive.
In recent times, keepers such as Craig Gordon, Simon Mignolet, and Jordan Pickford all left the club with their reputations rosier than before they had arrived. Gordon and Pickford became household names within their international teams, but it was Mignolet’s departure from the club in 2013 that is the focus of today’s “On This Day” feature.
In the summer of 2013, Mignolet left the club to join Brendan Rodgers’ supposed revolution at Anfield. After a string of impressive performances for Sunderland, the Belgian deserved his opportunity to join the Reds. As is the case in any walk of life, one person’s departure creates an opportunity for someone else.
With Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Kieran Westwood suddenly finding himself as the main man at the club, Paolo Di Canio and his recruitment team swiftly looked to replace the young Belgian.
Arsenal’s Vito Mannone was the chosen replacement. The Italian, who had spent many years in London without appearing regularly, finally cut ties with the Gunners in a £2 million deal. After playing second fiddle for so long, Mannone saw this opportunity in Sunderland as one where he could cement himself as one of the best yet.
At the time of signing, he stated his intentions.
Every player knows they have competition. We live in a world of competition.
I will work and do my best to be in the first 11 and then the manager will decide.
All I can do is try to show what I am capable of.
Unfortunately for him, Kieren Westwood was feeling the same way. The Irishman was only just starting to get his chance in the national team due to the aging Shay Given.
The signing of Mannone would have been a blow to him, considering he had spent a long time playing second fiddle to Simon Mignolet.
It seemed that the frustration of missed opportunities with his national team was affecting his thinking. On this day, he emphasized his longing for regular playing time and didn’t rule out a transfer if he didn’t get the game time he desired.
I love it at Sunderland and I do think I have improved there. But it is going to be very difficult for me if I am not playing. We’ll see what happens in the close season.
The simple thing about me though is I just want to play football. I need to be stimulated. Some players are happy whatever happens, but it’s not for me.
Westwood did get his opportunity, but the constant niggles that hampered his career generally led to Mannone becoming the regular choice.
As a result, Mannone played in the majority of games and also had some memorable performances, particularly the fateful night at Old Trafford.
Westwood left Sunderland in 2014 to join Sheffield Wednesday, where he would be a key player for seven years.