Vito Mannone admits it would be a dream ending to the campaign if he can force his way into the Italy squad for the summer’s European Championships.
Mannone will travel to his homeland for a training camp next week after national team coach Antonio Conte selected the keeper and Sunderland team-mate Fabio Borini for a last-gasp opportunity to earn a place at Euro 2016.
I’m just over the moon because Italy is not a bad country for keepers!Vito Mannone
Ex-Arsenal man Mannone only regained his Sunderland starting spot at the turn of the year after boss Sam Allardyce opted to offload stopper Costel Pantilimon, yet that decision has proved to be fruitful, with the 28-year-old excelling during the closing weeks of the survival battle.
After Sunderland secured their place in the Premier League earlier this week, Mannone’s efforts are not finished yet and he is desperate to earn a first call-up for his country.
Mannone said: “It’s something that makes me really proud to even be mentioned and have a possibility to impress the manager.
“It’s amazing, a dream come true for me.
“Since I was a kid, I dreamt about this with my dad, whose unfortunately not here anymore.
“I’m just over the moon because Italy is not a bad country for keepers!
“I always thought it was really, really difficult with a legend in (Gigi) Buffon and other very, very good keepers.
“I will give everything. My season is not over.
“I’m glad we finished the job with my club and hopefully now I can give something more.”
Mannone is expected to make way for academy product Jordan Pickford for Sunderland’s dead-rubber final game of the season at Watford tomorrow.
Allardyce will make wholesale changes - including the introduction of several youngsters - after Sunderland’s mammoth efforts over recent weeks to remain in the Premier League.
Mannone has experienced two previous successful Sunderland survivals, but believes this year’s has proved to be the toughest and just hopes it finally provides the foundations for a healthier league position.
“There’s a good base. If we can add a few players and keep the same manager, we can push for something more,” he added.
“This club deserves more.
“We’ve got special fans, an incredible stadium and training ground. We need to be higher in the Premier League. This city deserves it.
“It felt much harder than the last few seasons.
“There’s been moments when you’re thinking it’s really tight and we’re at risk of going down.
“You think we can’t keep doing this and one day it’s going to go against us.
“Fortunately, we found the strength and mentality to go into games and be solid - keeping clean sheets and defending well.
“With that base, (Jermain) Defoe did the job for us up top.
“Since the manager came in, he gave us this kind of mentality.
“Everyone contributed to the cause.”