Sunderland’s Mannone focused on the job in hand

PLAYING FOR KEEPS ... Vito Mannone.

PLAYING FOR KEEPS ... Vito Mannone.

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VITO Mannone’s believes he has an early advantage in his battle for the first-team gloves at Sunderland next season.

But he admits he cannot afford to rest on his laurels for an instant with ex-Manchester City keeper Costel Pantilimon ambitious to establish himself at the Stadium of Light.

The 6ft 8ins Romanian is a superb Bosman acquisition by the Black Cats, playing 18 games for the Premier League champions last season.

But Mannone is determined to build on the superb start he made to his Sunderland career last season, regardless of who is challenging for his place.

And he believes the 2013-14 campaign he had - in which he won the Player of the Season award and a place in fans’ hearts - will stand him in good stead.

“Costel’s arrival does put pressure on me - that’s how it should be,” he shrugged.

“But for me it’s OK, all I have to do is make sure I do my job and build on what I achieved last season.

“I’ve got the trust of the manager and I know where I am, so I’m happy with that.

“It’s funny sometimes when I read in articles that we are all starting from scratch

“But for me, I’m not starting from scratch - I had last season, and that has to count for something.

“The manager knows what I did last year, what I’m capable of and it is up to me to remain his number one.”

Mannone has faced a challenge for the number one spot throughout his career.

So he says that the situation he finds himself at Sunderland now is nothing unusual for him.

And he plans to use it to motivate him in the right way.

“I’m relaxed about the competition I’m facing,” said. “I know where I’m coming from.

“Last year was pretty good and a great experience but I’m still looking to prove myself every day.”

The Italian has made a pretty good defence to his number one spot this pre-season.

He kept a clean sheet in the first half he played against Darlington at the weekend and a clean sheet in the hour he played against Carlisle United.

“I’m pleased with how things have gone so far,” said the 26-year-old.

“It’s important that you try to hit the ground running when you come back in pre-season and I’ve been working hard to make sure I do.

“I had a good season last season and I’m determined to carry on from where I left off.”