Robbin Ruiter is determined to fight for his Sunderland place – and prove to supporters how good a goalkeeper he is.
The Sunderland squad is undergoing major reconstruction following successive relegations, with question marks over the heads of several first-team players.
While attempts to move on the likes of Lamine Kone, Papy Djilobodji and Didier Ndong continue, Ruiter has made it clear that he sees his future on Wearside.
The 31-year-old joined last summer but endured a difficult debut season in England through injury and poor form.
His campaign was ended early in February after he badly dislocated his finger.
Now fully fit, Ruiter is hoping to win back his place and is looking forward to battling with summer signing Jon McLaughlin.
“I was really unlucky last year with injury, I always said to everybody that it is an honour and a big challenge for me to play at Sunderland,” said Ruiter.
“I have had some good moments and some less good moments last season. I think I can do way better than I showed last season and I want to show everybody what kind of goalkeeper I am.
“For me, the challenge is to play every week and to show myself in a positive way and hopefully we can do it as a whole team, play at the top of the league.
“We all have that goal, to get back to the Championship as soon as possible.
“Jon [McLaughlin] is a really good lad – we are both at a similar age.
“We get on really well together and support each other in training and games and push each other to a higher level.
“At the end of the day, the gaffer will make the decision in terms of who plays and who doesn’t. If it is me, then Jon will support me and if it is Jon I will support him.
“We all have the main goal to get Sunderland back to the Championship.”
Ruiter started the 1-0 friendly defeat to Darlington on Tuesday, with McLaughlin not risked because of a groin injury.
Ruiter is expected to play some part in tomorrow’s friendly with Hartlepool United at Victoria Park (KO 3pm), with the Black Cats to be backed by more than 2,000 fans.
For Ruiter, he is delighted to be back playing after a frustrating – and lengthy – spell on the sidelines.
Sunderland have four pre-season fixtures left before the League One campaign kicks off with the visit of Charlton on August 4.
A lot has changed since Ruiter last wore a Sunderland shirt, with relegation to the third tier, a new owner in Stewart Donald, new manager in Jack Ross and six signings – so far.
“It is great to be back out on the pitch. Obviously it has been a while after my finger injury last season which ended my season,” added Ruiter.
“I did my rehab all summer in Holland and trained over there and everything is now fine.
“I feel comfortable on the pitch again.
“I’ve had a good couple of weeks training since we returned and these were my first real minutes in a game. I am happy to be back.
“A lot has changed since my last game! Unfortunately not in a good way last season [with relegation].
“Things happen and we have to deal with it and move on – there is a new, big challenge in front of us.
“Hopefully we can have a good season with new owners, new manager. Everything is new.
“We need to look forward now and move on.”
Ruiter admits it has been a summer like no other given the raft of changes on and off the pitch at the Stadium of Light.
He added: “Of course it is a bit strange.
“Normally during the summer there will always be changes at a club, always. It doesn’t matter what team, what club, there is always changes.
“Sometimes the manager or players coming in and out, but this year at Sunderland there has been a lot of changes with the new owner and manager, a different league.
“You can be really negative about everything [relegation], but we need to move forward now and take the positives.
“Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes in the past, look forward and make it a good season. That is the most important thing.
“You can’t make any difference to the past, but we can to the future.”