Sunderland still look for back up to Vito Mannone despite re-signing Jordan Pickford

Vito Mannone.
Vito Mannone.

SUNDERLAND will continue looking for a back-up keeper to Player of the Season Vito Mannone, despite re-signing Jordan Pickford for a further four years.

Twenty-year-old Pickford agreed a new four-year deal with the club over the weekend and is now set to be part of the Black Cats’ plans until 2018 at least.

The Academy product has caught the eye of head coach Gus Poyet, who sees the England Under 19 stopper as one for the future.

But Pickford has yet to make a first-team appearance for Sunderland.

And with Republic of Ireland international Keiren Westwood released this summer and Oscar Ustari also at the end of the short-term deal he signed in January, Poyet still needs experienced cover for Mannone.

Sunderland have been strongly linked with former Crystal Palace keeper Julian Speroni - an Argentine on friendly terms with fellow South American Gus Poyet - who has left Selhurst Park and is available on a Bosman free transfer.

But Sunderland have yet ruled out the possibility of Argentina international Ustari extending his stay on Wearside.

Although Ustari did not feature in any Premier League games, he did start three matches in the FA Cup and Poyet was impressed with his contribution on and off the pitch.

Although Ustari was an exemplary team player during his stay on Wearside, the 27-year-old is keen for first-team football.

The former Almeria man has had several offers from clubs in Italy and Spain willing to make him their number one and is exploring his options.

Italian Serie A side Lazio are currently believed to be favourites to sign him but the keeper is aware of Sunderland’s continuing interest.

For the moment, Poyet is happy to have the security of Pickford tied down to a long-term deal and the extended contract marks a vote of confidence in the youngster’s potential.

Washington-born Pickford turned professional with Sunderland in 2011 and has been given extensive loan experience in the lower divisions in recent seasons.

In 2012 he went on loan to Darlington, in 2013 to Alfreton Town and Burton Albion and this year he made 15 appearances for Carlisle United.

His ability has been obvious from the early stages of his career and he has represented England at Under 16, 17, 18 and 19 levels.

After signing the new deal, the 6ft 1ins Pickford said: “Last season was massive for me. I played games at Burton and at Carlisle, which was great experience.

“I want to keep developing and working hard and I’m delighted to sign a contract with the club I have always supported.”

Pickford joined the Black Cats when he was only eight-year old, signing a two-year scholarship in 2010 and going on to become a regular in the club’s Under 21 side.