Costel Pantilimon - Rise of hot prospect gives Sunderland boss strength in depth

Jordan Pickford
Jordan Pickford
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Jordan Pickford’s emergence has given Dick Advocaat a glut of options in goal, believes first-choice stopper Costel Pantilimon.

Black Cats head coach Dick Advocaat has alternated between three custodians so far during the pre-season programme, with Pantilimon, Pickford and Vito Mannone all featuring in the opening four friendlies.

Pantilimon will remain Sunderland’s No1 at the start of the season after shaking off the knee injury which kept him restricted to light training in the opening fortnight of pre-season training.

But in both Mannone and Pickford, the ex-Manchester City man has double-pronged competition for a place between the sticks.

Mannone provided cover for Pantilimon last season after the Italian lost his place to the giant Romanian in the autumn.

But Pickford has returned from last season’s successful loan spell at League One Bradford hoping to continue his development, with Sunderland boasting high hopes for the England Under-20 international.

Pantilimon said: “In a good team, it’s very important to have two or three good players for each position.

“That helps the team to grow and get better results.

“Jordan is a nice kid, he’s working hard.

“For him and his confidence, it’s been good to be training with us.

“Growing with a big team is important for your future.

“He has qualities, you know.

“He has to work hard and to keep improving everything about his game.

“But I’m sure one day, he’ll be part of the team.”

However, it is difficult to envisage both Mannone and Pickford remaining at Sunderland to provide cover for Pantilimon next season.

Sunderland are very conscious of the need to continue Pickford’s progress, with the 21-year-old privately earmarked as the club’s long-term stopper after coming through the academy system.

If Sunderland receive an acceptable offer for Mannone, then Pickford has been pencilled in to be promoted into the No2 slot.

But if there is a chance for Pickford to play regular football in the Championship on loan, Sunderland are likely to be open-minded on allowing the Washington-born stopper to continue his first-team experience elsewhere.