Robbin Ruiter on Jason Steele, battle to be Sunderland’s No.1, turning down offers from Europe and life under Simon Grayson

Robbin Ruiter saves a penalty against Carlisle
Robbin Ruiter saves a penalty against Carlisle
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Robbin Ruiter has revealed he turned down opportunities from across Europe to achieve his dream of playing in England with Sunderland – his perfect club.

With Jordan Pickford and Vito Mannone leaving in the summer, Simon Grayson had to totally revamp his goalkeeping options.

Jason Steele arrived from Blackburn Rovers for £500,000 with free agent Ruiter following him through the door at the Academy of Light after a successful trial spell.

Ruiter – who had offers from clubs in Turkey, Denmark and Belgium – has had to be patient but he grabbed his chance with both gloves in the 2-1 win over Carlisle United.

It leaves Grayson with a welcome selection dilemma ahead of Saturday’s 3pm kick-off at Barnsley - to keep faith with Steele who was rested for the cup game or reward Ruiter’s performance with a first Championship appearance.

Ruiter insists he hasn’t come to Sunderland to sit on the bench.

But the giant Dutch stopper knows whoever gets the gloves long-term that the main aim this season is promotion back to the Premier League.

For now, he is happy to have achieved his dream of moving to England to test himself.

“When I arrived I said it was always a big dream of mine to play in England,” said Ruiter.

“If a club like Sunderland wanted to have me, then it is a really big club in England.

“Unfortunately they were relegated last year but if you see the training ground, the Stadium of Light, the fans and support that we have – it is still a Premier League club and that is where we belong.

“Hopefully we can manage it to go up again and play against the real big teams.

“England is the most beautiful competition to play football in. If you see the crowd, the stadium, then yes it was England or Germany for me.

“I had some opportunities to go to Turkey, to Denmark, Belgium but I said no all the time.

“It was a bit risky because I had an injury last year and didn’t play much at the end of last season.

“It was not quite clear I would get the perfect club for me but I had patience, I came here on trial, played some games, I was confident to show my ability and in the end it worked out well.

“I am here now and happy to have signed for two years. Hopefully I can play a lot of games.”

The 30-year-old spent five successful years at Eredivisie side Utrecht in 2012 during which time he made 138 appearances as Utrecht qualified for the UEFA Europa League on two occasions before leaving in the summer.

Ruiter had to be patient to land his move to England and he has had to be patient for his first Sunderland appearance too.

Ruiter, who has signed a two-year deal, was named in the starting line-up for the Carabao Cup win over League Two Carlisle United at Brunton Park and excelled - the pick of Sunderland’s players.

He produced a string of excellent saves and was unlucky to concede after saving Danny Grainger’s penalty only to see him convert the rebound.

Did he stake a claim to keep his place at Barnsley? You bet.

Ruiter was pleased with his debut but says the decision over who gets the gloves at Barnsley rests with Grayson.

Ruiter said: “I am pleased with the win, that is the main thing that we go through to the next round. I’d looked forward to playing my first official minutes for this club.

“I came from Holland to play in England, not to sit on the bench all the time and I am happy to have played - I think it went well.

“In the first round I had only been at the club a couple of days, it wasn’t weird that I didn’t start straight away [against Bury] - I can understand the reasons of the manager.

“I am happy to have played against Carlisle and that we are through to the next round.”

And does he fancy his chances of being named in goal at Barnsley on Saturday in front of 4,000+ travelling Sunderland supporters?

“That is the choice of the manager - everyone wants to play. Me as well. Jason Steele as well,” added the modest Dutchman.

“I hope we can push each other to a higher level and win games for Sunderland.

“The main goal is to go up, that is what we all want.

“Of course everybody wants to play, if we go up with me in goal I would be very pleased but the most important thing is to go up all together.”

The goalkeeping union at clubs is usually a strong one but naturally with only one place in the side, it can often lead to frustration for the keeper left out of the team.

Ruiter insists the goalkeeping department, led by goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker, is strong at Sunderland with Mika and Max Stryjek pushing Ruiter and Steele hard for a place in the squad.

“Hopefully we can push each other to a higher level,” added Ruiter.

“We have to train with each other every day, not just Jason but Max and Mika too. We are all really close all year long.

“If you are rivals of each other all the time and don’t get on well then you will have a bad year.

“At the end I want to have fun when I go to work and so far it has been going well, Jason is a good guy, Mika and Max too.

“I am having fun at the club.”

Fun is not often a word associated with Sunderland AFC given the recent troubles on and off the pitch but the signs under Grayson have been encouraging.

And Ruiter is delighted to be a part of the Grayson era at Sunderland with the Black Cats enjoying a solid start to life in the second tier.

Ruiter is currently staying in a hotel but is set to move into his new home next week with his family moving to the region. His English is excellent and he has settled quickly in the North East.

“Before I came I didn’t think my English was that good but I can understand everything – my English is getting better and better everyday,” he added.

“We are almost settled, next week we are getting our new house, my wife and child are coming over then we will be finally settled.”