Vito Mannone has a battle on his hands to regain the number one jersey from Jordan Pickford, says manager David Moyes.
Mannone is nearing a return to action after elbow surgery but such has been Pickford’s impact that he is not guaranteed to walk straight back into the team.
The 22-year-old’s form won him a call-up to the senior England squad, with Pickford on the bench for the World Cup qualifier with Slovenia.
Competition for places at Sunderland is set to increase, though, with Mannone ahead of schedule on his way back from the injury suffered in training.
The 28-year-old was ruled out for three months in late August, but he is aiming to step up his recovery in the coming weeks.
“Vito will now need to know that he will have to push Jordan out. Jordan has played so well,” Moyes said.
“I’m glad Vito is coming back because maybe Jordan will need to realise, as well, that, in this big world of football, the moment you get in the big chair, there is always someone going to try and take you off it.
“Vito and Mika will be pushing him very closely to take him off that.
“What comes from the injuries sometimes, though, is an opportunity and some people are ready to take it – Jordan has certainly taken his opportunity.”
Pickford has nine England Under-21 caps and was drafted into the main squad by interim boss Gareth Southgate after the injury picked up by Burnley stopper Tom Heaton.
Moyes has praised the Washington-born goalie for his impact, with the Black Cats boss challenging him to maintain the form that earned him the call-up.
“It is terrific for Jordan,” added Moyes. “I have spoken with him about making sure that he shows everyone the reason why he was selected for England and that means by playing well again.
“The development of the next stage of his career is how he looks to step up again. I told him he deserved the call-up and he does.
“He made a mistake against Southampton, but he played great in the game.
“Aside from that, you have to say he has been very impressive in everything that he has done.”