Lee Burge opens up on winning his first Sunderland league start, Jack Ross and new boss Phil Parkinson
Friday morning brought a proud moment for Lee Burge.
He had arrived at Sunderland this summer knowing full well the scale of the task ahead of him.
It was a new challenge and a new environment for a player who, other than one loan spell at Nuneaton Town, had spent his entire career at Coventry City.
Over 150 senior games for a 26-year-old goalkeeper represented an impressive achievement and this was the time to push himself further.
The issue, of course, was that Burge was arriving at a club boasting a goalkeeper who had produced a quite sensational season.
Even as recently as the 2-1 win over Portsmouth in August, Jack Ross was publicly lauding Jon McLaughlin as the best goalkeeper in League One.
Burge knew he would have to show quality, dedication and a huge amount of patience.
He impressed in the cups, tidy in his distribution and eye-catching in his shot-stopping against Premier League opposition.
When Phil Parkinson named his first Sunderland XI ahead of the trip to Wycombe, Burge got his reward.
“The manager named the team on Friday morning,” he said.
“It was a nice surprise and lovely to make my league debut.
“I came here to do what I've done, work really hard and push Jon, do the best I can.
“I wanted a new experience here and I'm loving every minute here.
“I think I did alright, I was calm and collected and it's just nice to help the team in any way I can.”
Burge showed his qualities even as his side fell to defeat, making it a ‘bittersweet’ afternoon for the goalkeeper.
There was sympathy, too, for Jon McLaughlin, who offered support to the 26-year-old as he settled in to life on Wearside.
It has not been an easy couple of months for the Scot whose form dipped after uncertainity over a potential new deal, discussions started and then seemingly stalling.
Parkinson said he had been the ‘ultimate professional’ in accepting his decision.
The respect from Burge is obvious even as he looks to seize on the opportunity he has been presented with.
“It was a proud moment [being named in the side],” Burge said.
“It was really nice.
“It's a lot of hard work [paying off].
“It's a horrible position to be in if you're on the other side, we've been all there as goalkeepers.He wished me all the luck today and was very supportive, as I've been with him so far.
“It's a goalkeeper's union, it can be a tough place to be but you have to support each other because you both go through the same sort of times.
“Now I've just to keep going, keep doing the same things that I've been doing.”
It has been a tricky period for the Black Cats, flat again at Adams Park.
The sudden departure of Jack Ross, who brought Burge to the club and was so complimentary about his professionalism and personality, was a blow.
Phil Parkinson had just a couple of days to work with the players and though they struggled against Gareth Ainsworth’s side, his message has been clear.
Burge says the squad have to believe in and back him.
“When the old gaffer left, it was disappointing for everyone,” he said.
“Everyone really liked him.
“It was tough.
“No one took it easy.
“But now the new gaffer is in and we've got to get behind him, he's been brilliant since he came in and hopefully now we'll start to turn things round going into Tuesday.
“We've got to back him.
“You've got to do the basics right and that's one thing he's said,” he added.
“You look at Saturday, that's what Wycombe do.
“They mark man for man, they run their b*ll*cks to be fair and they do it well.
“We've got a bit more time to work with the manager now before Tuesday and I'm sure he'll get his message across.
“You've got to earn the right to play.
“That's every game in League One, it's a difficult, difficult league and we've got to keep fighting.
“It's good that we've got a game straight away on Tuesday, to try and go out there and get the three points.”
Parkinson, for his part, praised Burge for taking his opportunity.
It seems certain that he will get the opportunity to continue between the goalposts when Tranmere Rovers visit the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night.
It’s an opportunity that has perhaps come round quicker than anyone anticipated.
It's worth dwelling for a moment on the words of Ross, when Burge made an encouraging cup debut at Accrington Stanley back in August.
“Lee is one that I’m really pleased for,” Ross said.
“He knew when he was coming here that he’s got a really good goalkeeper alongside him in Jon McLaughlin. He knows how Jon is viewed at the club.
“But he’s trained brilliantly from day one. How he’s played in friendlies and behind closed doors games etc. has been really good.
“He’s really popular with the players and I’m really pleased he had such a good performance tonight because he’s a really good addition to the squad.”
That much is now clear.
As Mclaughlin looks to recover his best form, it’s one area of the pitch of little concern to the new manager.