Against Sheffield United last Wednesday, as Sunderland battled hard to equalize after playing for over sixty minutes with ten men, the ball fell on Oli McBurnie after a quick counterattack – and in that moment the whole world felt like a third Blades goal was coming.
Despite the danger, McBurnie’s well-struck shot was deflected smartly around the post by Anthony Patterson into Sunderland’s goal.
It was a classic reflex save: adjusting the feet, ducking sharply and putting a firm hand on the ball. This save kept us in the game at a crucial stage, and it was another example of the immense talent the young keeper possesses.
Despite that, there seem to be lingering doubts over whether he’s cut out for the rigors of Championship football – something that overlooks the string of high-quality saves he’s made so far this season.
“Lend it” is something you often hear about Patterson, but on what basis? The proof of five league matches, during which he was largely solid and reliable?
Granted, he’s not the most physically imposing figure between the sticks, but he’s blessed with excellent reflexes and impressive agility – and his ability with the ball at his feet is also improving.
You can see him developing a better understanding and relationship with his defenders, especially Danny Batth, and the clean sheet against Stoke on Saturday was a hard-earned one.
Could Patterson have more control over his penalty area? Without a doubt.
Does he need to develop a more dominant and vocal streak, as well as the ability to organize, cajole and sometimes whip his defenders when needed? Absolutely.
There’s no weakness in Patterson’s game that can’t be fixed with hard work on the training ground, and the arrival of Alessandro Barcherini as the club’s new chief goalkeeper will certainly help. .
It is common knowledge that David Preece, now deceased, was a very influential figure during Patterson’s first weeks and months as first-choice goalkeeper, but Barcherini has a great reputation and he is sure to push him every day in training, no doubt using some of the innovative and varied coaching methods.
Perhaps some of the doubts about Patterson were born from the fact that he is not a ‘big name player’ who arrived at the club on a high-profile transfer over the summer.
When the promotion was confirmed in May, the ‘fantasy transfer buy’ game began in earnest, and everyone had a say in who we should target.
In the goalkeeping department, fuel was added to the fire when names such as John Ruddy and Daniel Iversen from Leicester were linked with a move to Wearside, but the arrival of Alex Bass from Portsmouth seemed mark the occasion: Patterson is our number one. , and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Personally, I felt that bringing in an experienced number two would have been a smart move, based on the established theory that the youngster could learn from his well-travelled assistant, but the club decided to go down a path. different – and so far. it worked well.
At 22, Patterson is relatively young for a first-choice goalkeeper in this league, but like the majority of his team-mates he hasn’t seemed fazed or overwhelmed by the transition from League One to the Championship.
It’s often very easy to tell whether a Sunderland player has the mental toughness to play for the club, and he ticked that box emphatically.
In the playoff final – in front of 45,000 Sunderland fans – he walked through the game with the composure of a veteran. No one can claim that their place in the team, or their number one status, was given to them by default.
He was given an opportunity, took it and didn’t look back.
Giving local players a chance is a fundamental part of the club’s new philosophy, and Patterson is a shining example of that. He’s a successful local guy, and at this point we can only scratch the surface of what he could achieve at Sunderland in the years to come.