Vito Mannone is now Sunderland’s first-choice keeper after Costel Pantilimon’s departure, Sam Allardyce has confirmed.
Pantilimon joined Watford on a three-and-a-half year contract this week, to leave Mannone and academy product Jordan Pickford fighting for the starting spot in goal, albeit Allardyce is hopeful of landing a third-choice stopper as back-up to the pair.
Pickford was arguably Sunderland’s man of the match on his Premier League debut at Spurs last weekend, despite shipping four goals.
But Mannone will return to the starting XI in tomorrow’s crunch clash against fellow strugglers Bournemouth, with Allardyce putting his faith in the 2013-14 Sunderland Player of the Season.
Allardyce said: “Vito is number one now.
“I wanted to put Jordan in to play against Tottenham because I thought we’d put him in on the back of his performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup and not wait too long.
“But at this moment in time, Vito will stay number one.
“We’ve assured Vito that for the time being, he’s the number one and will continue to be the number one until such time as his performances don’t deserve that position.
“He’s waited patiently for the chance to restore himself as the number one.
“He was the Player of the Year before I came here. He’s shown he’s capable and we just hope he can show that capability again and keep young Pickford at bay.”
Pantilimon lost his place to Mannone last month and the Romanian never featured for Sunderland again, with Allardyce taking the chance to ease the pressure on the club’s wage bill by offloading the ex-Manchester City man.
“He found a club who wanted him, and the negotiations took place between both clubs,” added Allardyce.
“I was asked and I said I was okay with it because Pickford did very well and Vito did very well when I came here.
“Costel would have been the one who would not have been comfortable with not being in the first team.”