Dick Advocaat admits Sunderland are conscious of the need for top prospect Jordan Pickford to be playing competitive football.
Washington-born keeper Pickford joined Championship new boys Preston North End on a season-long loan last week after he had spent the pre-season campaign training with Sunderland’s first-team squad.
He’s a great goalkeeper, but he needs to play.
Sunderland have high hopes for Pickford and he is privately pencilled in as a potential long-term replacement for first-choice Costel Pantilimon, if the Romanian ultimately moves to one of Europe’s heavyweight clubs.
Pickford himself has been watched by some of the Premier League big boys, with Sunderland considering whether to promote the 21-year-old to number two behind Pantilimon this season and cash-in on Vito Mannone.
Ultimately though, Sunderland decided that the chance for Pickford to spend a season in the Championship - after last year’s spell at League One Bradford - would prove to be more beneficial for the England Under-20 international.
Head coach Advocaat said: “We made the decision about Jordan after a lot of thought because he is a very talented goalkeeper for us.
“He’s a Sunderland player, but if Pantilimon continues playing like he has and Jordan wasn’t really getting any football, there was always the chance we could lose him.
“He’s a great goalkeeper, but he needs to play.
“That’s the reason that we took that decision.”
Preston boss Simon Grayson believes he has pulled off a coup in landing Pickford too.
“We had kept our eye on keepers and Jordan was top of the list of young English goalkeepers who could be available,” he said.
However, Pickford’s move to Preston will rubber-stamp Mannone’s position as back-up behind Pantilimon.
Sunderland received several enquiries for Mannone’s services at the end of last season, when the Italian was also considering his position after losing his spot to Pantilimon last November and being unable to reclaim it, due to the Romanian’s superb form.
But that interest has not developed into anything concrete and Mannone will face another year at Sunderland.