Explained: What Sunderland's contract call tells us about their goalkeeping plans and what happens next

Sunderland's commitment to placing academy graduates at the heart of their first-team squad was underlined this morning.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 4:56 pm

A new two-year deal for Anthony Patterson, with the option of a third.

In announcing the deal, Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman had this revealing comment: "We are really happy to have this in place for the start of the season.

"He returns later this month as a member of the first-team squad and he has a great opportunity to progress with us.”

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Sunderland youngster Anthony Patterson

Patterson has long been a highly-rated player behind the scenes but his performances over the course of the 2020/21 campaign underlined his potential.

So much so, that the club committed to a new, improved deal even though an option to extend his previous contract had already been activated.

Patterson had made a positive impression on Lee Johnson at Oldham Athletic last December, the head coach noting that his command of the box was superior to what you would expect of a goalkeeper of his age.

Johnson said he had not felt any concern when balls were fired into his box, about as good a compliment as a young stopper could receive.

He continued to train almost exclusively with the first team across the rest of the campaign, while excelling in the U23 side.

A quite superb display of shot-stopping in the Premier League 2 Division 2 play-off final against Crystal Palace brought something of a breakthrough campaign to an eye-catching conclusion even in defeat.

Patterson's reward is his place as one of a cohort of players from that team who will get a chance to impress Johnson in the opening weeks of pre-season.

Sunderland have recruited Jacob Carney, recently released by Manchester United, to step into Patterson's place in the U23 set up, another indication of their belief in his abilities.

As it stands, the expectation is that Patterson will begin the campaign as deputy to Lee Burge, who activated a one-year extension in his deal this summer.

That could yet change, even if it seems unlikely at this stage.

Sunderland are known to have been monitoring the market for potential goalkeeping options, with Chelsea youngster Nathan Baxter one name linked.

A number of National League and League Two clubs are aware that there could be the potential for a loan move, should the club eventually decide that Patterson's development is best served in the short term by a spell of regular, senior football elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly given his youth, there are areas of Patterson's game that need to mature and it is about making the call on how best to do that.

Burge responded strongly to being replaced by Remi Matthews at Shrewsbury Town earlier this season, and ended the season very much the number one goalkeeper. Johnson will be eager to ensure there is strong competition for his place nevertheless and thiat will guide any thinking between now and the end of the window.

What is abundantly clear is that supporters can look forward to seeing more of this academy talent in the pre-season campaign, and in the years to come beyond that.

Sunderland's new regime are determined to show their rhetoric over promoting youth has substance. This new contract, and the clear promotion that it represents, is evidence of that.

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