Why Vito Mannone has a fight on his hands to reclaim Sunderland spot from Jordan Pickford

England goalkeepers Joe Hart (left) Fraser Forster and Jordan Pickford (centre) during a training session  at Enfield Training Ground.
England goalkeepers Joe Hart (left) Fraser Forster and Jordan Pickford (centre) during a training session at Enfield Training Ground.
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Of all the injuries Sunderland have had to deal with this season, the one suffered by Vito Mannone has had the least impact.

Towards the end of August, with the transfer window just over a week away from closing, Mannone was ruled out for up to three months after rupturing his elbow ligaments.

For most clubs, losing their number one goalkeeper for a lengthy period of time would be a major blow.

And it was a blow to Sunderland, who added Mika as cover. But it wasn’t a defining one.

David Moyes had Washington-born Jordan Pickford to call upon. And the 22-year-old has shown exactly why there is so much hype around him.

A costly mistake against Southampton aside, which cost Sunderland two points and their first win of the season, Pickford has excelled in goal.

So much so, that Sunderland haven’t missed Mannone and Pickford has been called into the main England squad.

He has been a regular around the Under-21 camp having worked his way up through the Under-16, 17, 18, 19 and Under-20 sides.

The injury suffered by Burnley stopper Tom Heaton has opened the door for Pickford with the national side.

Joe Hart will start tonight in the World Cup qualifier in Slovenia.

But just to have been called-up and training with the elite goalkeeping unit is a huge honour for Pickford and a well-deserved one too.

He took to social media to speak of his pride after getting the nod.

Pickford tweeted: “Honoured to be called up to the @England senior team for the first time! Really excited for the journey ahead, can’t wait to get started.”

Pickford is a player well known to England interim boss Gareth Southgate, with the former Middlesbrough boss awarding him nine Under-21 caps to date, with the young stopper helping the Young Lions win the Toulon Tournament this summer.

He will hope, given his form to date in the top flight and for England in the Under 21 qualifiers, that it will be the first of many call-ups.

Pickford, who has a wealth of experience in the Football League after loan spells at Preston North End, Bradford, Carlisle United and Burton Albion, will benefit greatly from his time away with England.

His bread and butter, though, is helping Sunderland turn around their season.

And grounded Pickford, who kept his first Sunderland clean sheet in the EFL Cup win over Shrewsbury Town, is relishing his time in the first team, playing in front of the supporters he used to sit alongside.

‘Jordan Pickford, he’s one of our own’ goes the chant around the Stadium of Light.

Mannone is popular with fans but Pickford is homegrown and fans want to see him thrive.

So far, he hasn’t let anyone down.

Pickford has conceded 10 goals in seven games but only the 85th minute strike from Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez, which agonisingly squirmed under his body, was his fault. And he had been superb up to that point.

He excelled against Tottenham Hotspur, with Spurs battering Sunderland for large periods of the game.

The defenders in front let him down against Crystal Palace and Everton, with the Black Cats shipping three second half goals in both of those matches.

Pickford’s strengths are his shot-stopping, his pin-point distribution (which at times is so rapid that it catches out his teammates), his athleticism and his ability to command his area. He is vocal too.

The sight of him rollicking those in front of him is a frequent one.

So far, he has thrived in the pressure-cooker that is the Premier League. And long may it continue.

After an impressive pre-season, Mannone started against Manchester City and Middlesbrough in the Premier League before injury robbed him of his place.

He had done nothing wrong in those games.

But such has been Pickford’s impact that the Italian faces a real fight to regain his spot.

It gives Moyes a real selection headache when Mannone does return to action.

As things stand, Pickford is in pole position to remain Sunderland’s number one.