Why Jon McLaughlin could turn into one of the signings of the summer for Sunderland

Jon McLaughlan.
Jon McLaughlan.
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A key factor in the embarrassing Championship relegation was the fact Sunderland changed goalkeeper seven times over the course of the campaign.

Jason Steele, Robbin Ruiter and Lee Camp all had spells between the sticks before being dropped following another howler.

Good teams are based on a solid foundation at the back and Sunderland’s goalkeepers last season were anything but.

Of all the priorities facing new boss Jack Ross this summer, landing a reliable keeper was key.

Step forward Jon McLaughlin.

The high profile signings of the likes of Chris Wyke, Jerome Sinclair and Dylan McGeouch may have resulted in more column inches over the summer months.

But the relatively low profile capture of McLaughlin could yet prove to be one of the signings of the summer.

Ross will certainly hope so, anyhow.

He has started the season as No1 and while some of his kicking could have been better against Charlton, overall he pulled off some important saves and showed an excellent command of his box.

When he confidently came and gathered a Charlton set piece in the opening stages, there were cheers from fans too used to seeing the opposition dominate the penalty area last season.

Early days, of course, but Sunderland look to have secured a goalkeeper with no clear weaknesses, a reliable presence between the posts throughout pre-season and in the League One opener.

He deserved a clean sheet in the dramatic opening day win but it wasn’t to be, ex-Sunderland target Lyle Taylor scoring from the spot.

McLaughlin recently spoke passionately about the importance of cleansing the club this summer, to hit the ‘reset’ button as the Black Cats look to rebuild.

“This is the moment for a reset,” said McLaughlin. “Have people here without the baggage of past seasons.

“And if we can set high goals and achieve them ... cult heroes emerge when a team comes back from its lowest ebb.”

McLaughlin, like the rest of the 2018-19 squad, has the opportunity to become a cult hero.

Given the dire goalkeeping efforts of last season, the bar has been set low, but over the years Sunderland have boasted a raft of top goalkeepers; Jordan Pickford, Simon Mignolet, Thomas Sorensen.

And McLaughlin hopes to follow in those footsteps and make his mark on Wearside as Sunderland look to bounce back at the first attempt.

It was a coup for Sunderland to sign him, the 30-year-old signing a two-year deal after a stellar season with Hearts.

A Scotland international, McLaughlin was named in the SPFL Premiership team of the season last year, he already has 100 League One appearances under his belt and promotions too at this level on his CV.

He has perhaps gone a little under the radar but with an imposing presence, great height and reach, McLaughlin could be a dominating force for good in this Sunderland side.

He offers security and stability, two key factors Ross was looking for in his new No1 as he revamped his goalkeeping department.

This summer Steele, somehow, secured a move to Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion, while Camp headed back to Cardiff City following his loan spell.

Ruiter remains at the club and in fairness to him he did suffer a horrendous finger injury that brought his season to an early end.

He has started this season as No2, with Max Stryjek third choice, and Ruiter has expressed a determination to win back his place.

But the Dutchman will have to get used to warming the bench given McLaughlin’s early Sunderland form.