Lee Johnson has this message for his Sunderland goalkeepers and the key change he wants to see this season
Lee Johnson has urged his Sunderland goalkeepers to be bold this season, and believes they have made good progress during the pre-season programme.
Lee Burge looks set to retain his spot as number one goalkeeper for the start of the new campaign following the release of Remi Matthews, who has subsequently joined Crystal Palace.
Burge will be supported by youngster Anthony Patterson, with Jacob Carney arriving from Manchester United to assume Patterson's role from last season.
Sunderland's head coach wants all of his goalkeepers to show bravery in coming off their line this season, and believes there have already been indications that the message has got through.
"I want my goalkeepers to be bold, which you’ve seen through pre-season," Johnson said.
"They’ve probably caught more crosses in the pre-season games than in last season – I can’t remember that many crosses that the keepers came out and caught last season.
"For me, I’d much rather my goalkeepers were making those kind of bold mistakes that not being proactive.
"You’re allowed to make a mistake in a bold manner – then you can bounce back and have genuine feedback. I played with David James as an example of a keeper who came for everything. He dropped a few, and we conceded one or two from it, but the intent was there and he probably snuffed out way more goals than that every season just by being so positive.
"It’s almost about deferring the blame on to me. If that happens, unless it’s a fumble or something like that, then it’s a tactical decision that we’ve made to come for those crosses.
"That’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s why you need a pre-season. You can make the mistakes in pre-season and learn from them, and no one’s bothered. But it gives you a consistency of the good stuff that you’re trying to do.”
Though the Black Cats have considered whether Patterson should be loaned out in search of regular minutes, they remain of the view at this stage that he is ready to be part of the senior goalkeeping group.
Johnson has been impressed with his efforts in pre-season and says the 21-year-old is making progress in some key areas.
The head coach said: “Is he (Patterson) ready? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? I think so. I certainly trust him. There’s definitely areas of his game that we want to add, and that he wants to add too, but of course that applies to all of the players as well.
"He’s done everything that could have been asked of him. He’s a fantastic shot-stopper, and has really improved with his feet, and on the tactical side of where the spare man is.
"He’s a good lad. I’d like him to be a bit more vocal, but that’s something we can encourage as much as possible, to bring out of him."
Patterson is expected to push Burge for league action this year, while the season's early cup fixtures offer a chance for him to push his claims further.