1st Team Goalkeepers: Simon Mignolet (23), Keiran Westwood (27)
The major move within Sunderland’s goalkeeping ranks over summer was the departure of Craig Gordon. The numbers men will point to the £9 million fee and his leaving on a free transfer as a sign of failure, but there were more than enough extenuating circumstances to explain the disappointing spell. The highly rated Scot struggled with injury after injury. Just when it looked like he was on the verge of return, he was almost invariably struck down with a further ailment. When he did play, his talent was obvious. Gordon managed 95 appearances for the Black Cats, but it’s easy to understand why Martin O’Neill decided against keeping him at the club any longer. With some luck and some good health, Gordon still has the time to forge a good career for himself somewhere.
It leaves Sunderland with two talented options for the season ahead. Simon Mignolet is a good young keeper. His reactions are sharp, agility is good and physicality well suited to the league. His big achilles heel however is his judgement. He seems to read the flight of crosses incorrectly more than is ideal. His handling can also be sketchy and will need to improve if he is to be considered one of the best keepers in the league.
After a handful of starts in his first season at the Stadium of Light, Keiran Westwood is very much playing second fiddle to the Belgian. Signed on a free transfer from Coventry, the Irish international made a good start to his Sunderland career when filling in for the injured Mignolet. With his agility and stunning reflexes, he seemed to have convinced Steve Bruce of his ability, but when Bruce was handed his P45, he then had to repeat the trick by impressing O’Neill. The Northern Irishman seems to be harder to win over. With Shay Given opting for retirement from international football, it’s a big season for Westwood and he needs to get some first team football under his belt. That should lead to some intense competition for places and Sunderland should be the ones to benefit.