Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mannone: I'm Still Black Cats' No 1; Mannone: I Am Still Cats' No 1

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mannone: I'm Still Black Cats' No 1; Mannone: I Am Still Cats' No 1

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner Sports Writer

VITO Mannone says he still sees himself as Sunderland's number one No 1. The Italian goalkeeper made his return after a fractured elbow at home to Notts County in Wednesday's Football League Trophy win, and now he feels ready for the challenge of reclaiming his place in the first team. It is just under a year since Mannone ousted Costel Pantilimon to regain the place he lost after a shaky run of form the previous season.

The Romanian was sold to Watford in January, but since Mannone injured his elbow in training Jordan Pickford has emerged as a serious rival with performances which have seen him called up to consecutive England squads as injury cover.

"It was frustrating," admitted Mannone, who signed a new two-year contract in the summer. "I left the pitch when I was No 1 and I am still No 1 in my mind.

"I want to be back. I haven't been fit in the last couple of months and haven't been on the pitch to compete. As I was injured I couldn't do anything about it. Now I'm back, I Turn to Page 54 FROM BACK PAGE can push and hopefully get my place back and prove to the manager I am still No 1."

Washington-born Pickford, who made his first three senior appearances for Sunderland last season, has started the 12 games Mannone has missed, and fulfilled the potential his coaches have long seen in him. He is, though, yet to keep a Premier League clean sheet.

"Yes, Jordan has done okay," was Mannone's faint praise. "Obviously he is a young lad who has come into the team and it is never easy, like for any young player who had to come in.

"We faced 10 tough games at the beginning of the season and finally we won one game last week. We really needed it. It is never easy as a goalkeeper when you come in and the Premier League is very tough. They don't leave you time to improve and get the experience. …

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