In recent years, Sunderland have had somewhat of a mixed bag when it has come to goalkeepers. The past five years have seen us drop to the lows of Lee Camp, back up to the relative solidity of Jon McLaughlin and up to the reliable and smiley face of Anthony Patterson.
Ahead of the season, we’ve added to the goalkeeping ranks with the permanent signing of Nathan Bishop from Manchester United. The loan departure of Alex Bass didn’t surprise anyone, and it always felt as though he was around to make the numbers up.
Bass made just two senior appearances for Sunderland, with one of these coming in a 2-0 loss to then League One Sheffield Wednesday - a match in which we played a very weakened team to the one which went and won 3-2 at Bristol City several days later.
He occupied the bench for every single one of our 46 Championship matches last season, watching Patterson go from strength to strength whilst he shared a bench with fringe and youth players.
His departure left us in need of another stopper, and Bishop feels like one which we’ve been tracking for a while. There were calls for a more experienced keeper to be drafted in, but let’s be honest we should all know better than this by now.
Bishop is the older of the two, albeit by only around six months, but he’s certainly got more first team action under his belt than Bass did. He comes following a full campaign as a team’s first choice, even if this was for a League Two side. It shows he won’t be coming in rusty and as a player just looking to sit on the bench week in, week out.
Another feather in Bishop’s cap is that he’s spent a lot of time within the academy at Manchester United. During his career he’s either been a regular at a football league club, or been in and around the setup at one of the best academies in Europe. There’s a reason why our new policy of youthful, data-driven transfers had Bishop selected as a main target to come in this summer - there’s no randomness about it.
At the end of the day, he is in to bulk up our squad and give Patterson good competition.
At times last season I thought our current number one would really have benefited from more genuine competition for his spot. Even at times when it looked as though a rotation may happen, I got the impression that the confidence in Bass wasn’t there. Bishop is surely a step up on this, otherwise, there wouldn’t have been much point in replacing Bass.
Signing goalkeepers hasn’t been a huge priority for Sunderland in recent seasons, with academy product Patterson being almost undisputed number one choice for over 18 months now.
It does happen though, and the signing of Bishop seems sensible and logical and an addition to the squad who the coaching team believes will compete with Patto for a starting place.