Sunderland may have exited the FA Cup at Arsenal on Saturday but manager Sam Allardyce could not hide his delight after watching young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford impress on his debut.
The 21-year-old was recently recalled from a loan spell at Championship side Preston and Allardyce elected to hand him the gloves for the trip to face Arsene Wenger’s cup holders.
He did not disappoint, pulling out some top draw saves – most notably denying Joel Campbell with a point-blank stop midway through the second half with the scores level.
There was precious little Pickford could do to stop Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scoring from close range late on as Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners, but his efforts were singled out by the Sunderland boss afterwards.
Allardyce felt Pickford “looked the part” and said he had no hesitation in recalling the player after he impressed at Deepdale.
“There is a huge amount of talk in the football world about him, there is no way I could have left him at Preston without bringing him back and seeing if he can do it for us,” he said.
Vito Mannone has been between the sticks for Sunderland recently having displaced Costel Pantilimon from the starting team.
Allardyce says Mannone is likely to be back for the trip to Swansea in midweek, but he feels Pickford is now in a position to put the more experienced duo under some pressure.
“We’ll wait and see. I was really pleased with his performance and it puts the other two on their toes,” he added.
Sunderland would move within a point of 17th-placed Swansea if they win at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday. The Blacks Cats are 5.00 to win, with Swansea 1.70 and the draw 3.50.