Opportunity knocks for Max Stryjek as Sunderland look to replace Vito Mannone
All eyes were on birthday boy Max Stryjek when news broke that Vito Mannone's four-year Sunderland spell was coming to a close.
Mannone is Reading-bound after the two clubs agreed a fee for the 29-year-old, once a medical and personal terms have been finalised.
News of his imminent departure broke before kick-off, with the news quickly filtering amongst the Sunderland fans on the terraces at Victoria Park.
Under-23 stopper Stryjek started in goal, his first senior start for the Black Cats albeit this was a friendly.
Stryjek is very highly rated at the Academy of Light, with Under-23 boss Elliott Dickman often signalling him out for praise last season.
The Poland Under-21 ace, who turned 21 yesterday, has an imposing frame, quick feet, commands his area well and has a safe pair of hands.
He also good agility and is more than capable of making a stunning save. With Jordan Pickford and Mannone departing, he has been elevated up the pecking order.
Mika, who didn’t have a look-in after arriving last summer as a third-choice back-up, has seemingly fallen behind Stryjek in recent weeks.
Stryjek played the full 90 minutes against Hartlepool and did his chances of further opportunities no harm at all.
Chances are he will start in goal again against Bradford on Saturday at Valley Parade unless a new keeper is signed, sealed and delivered before then.
It would be some leap to go from fourth-choice to first-choice in a matter of weeks and chances are Stryjek isn’t quite ready for that just yet.
A loan spell may have benefited him but by he could well find himself as the club’s new No 2 this season, having caught the eye of boss Simon Grayson.
Sunderland will look to bring in a new goalkeeper to replace Mannnone but in Stryjek they have a very promising youngster on their hands.
Truth be told, Stryjek didn’t have an awful lot to do against Pools.
It took until 20 minutes in for him to be called into action. Lewis Hawkins rounded him before seeing his effort rebound off the post via Lamine Kone’s boot.
Shortly after Stryjek showed his calming presence in the box by confidently claiming Jack Munns’ free-kick from distance.
There was little else for him to do first half but he had a busier second half, including picking the ball out of his net.
There was little he could do, though, as Ryan Donaldson prodded the ball past him for the equaliser.
Stryjek kept the Pools attack at bay, getting down low to save from Padraig Amond before Sunderland eventually bagged a late winner.
Stryjek drew praise from Grayson post-match.
The opportunity is there, now it’s up to Stryjek to grasp it and establish himself further up the Sunderland pecking order.