COSTEL Pantilimon’s arrival this summer puts undeniable pressure on goalkeeper Vito Mannone, but the Italian says Sunderland fans should be happy about that.
Former Arsenal stopper Mannone was voted Player of the Season by Sunderland fans this year after fantastic goalkeeping over the course of a campaign which produced numerous clean sheets.
And in the Echo’s end-of-season survey the overwhelming majority of fans said that the position of goalkeeper was the one in the squad that LEAST needed strengthening.
But Mannone says regardless of the personal challenge he faces, Sunderland supporters should be pleased that the club is looking to create the toughest of competition in the squad.
“It’s not an unusual situation for me to be in,” he told the Echo. “When I was at Arsenal, there were always two or even three top goalkeepers competing for a place.
“So I’m used to it.
“Maybe Sunderland fans are not so used to it. I don’t know.
“But it has to be good for the club and therefore the fans.
“If you want to be a top club you have to have top players competing for the same place.
“It is going to be a challenge to me, but hopefully to him also, and if we bring the best out of each other, that has got to be good for Sunderland Football Club.”
Mannone has had a flawless pre-season so far and jetted off to Portugal looking to ramp us his fitness and sharpness to another level.
“I feel good,” he said. “I had a good summer and it was good to come back to pre-season.
“Even though you’ve only been away from it for a couple of months you have to adjust yourself again to the dimensions of the box and your positioning in situations.
“But it comes back quickly and I’m really looking forward to next season.
“It has been good for me to be tested and keep clean sheets in both the pre-season games I’ve been involved with so far.
“But, to be honest, it’s not about clean sheets at this stage, it’s about getting yourself ready for the new season.
“I could not have hoped for a better season than the one I’ve just had at Sunderland, but it is a season that I need to build on now.
“I know that a quality new goalkeeper puts pressure on me, but I’m ready for that.
“I showed what I could really do last season and I want to show in the months coming up that I can continue it again.
“I was thrilled with how I did last season, but I still believe I can improve as a goalkeeper.”