Sam Allardyce has brushed off question marks over Vito Mannone – insisting the Italian is far less error-prone than ex-Sunderland number one Costel Pantilimon.
Four months after Mannone regained his spot as Sunderland’s first-choice keeper, there remains a section of supporters who are unconvinced by the ex-Arsenal man and continue to call for the inclusion of academy product Jordan Pickford.
But Allardyce insists Mannone “has done nothing wrong” during his 14 starts since returning to the side to justify losing his spot to Pickford.
And the Sunderland boss believes Mannone is much more reliable than fellow stopper Pantilimon, who was offloaded by Allardyce to Watford during the January transfer window.
“He hasn’t made a mistake at all,” said Allardyce.
“The fans want Pickford because he’s a Sunderland lad. I’m not stupid!
“Who would not want Pickford, whose a Sunderland fan and been at Sunderland since he was eight?
“But Vito has done nothing wrong at all to lose his position.
“He’s not made any sort of mistakes like Pantilimon did.
“I know the player has left and I shouldn’t really talk badly about him.
“But the reason I brought Jordan back and got rid of Pantilimon was I thought he made too many mistakes while I was here.
“I don’t think Vito has done that at all.”
Jamie Vardy’s crucial opening goal in last weekend’s defeat against Leicester had prompted some pundits to question whether Mannone should have been off his line quicker.
But Allardyce reiterated that Sunderland’s defence had to take the blame, with centre-half Younes Kaboul – up to that point the stand-out player on the pitch – losing concentration as Vardy raced in behind.
“It wasn’t Vito’s fault for the goal against Leicester,” added Allardyce.
“He may have done a little bit better trying to stop it, but it’s a one-on-one and people will score it.
“Our problem was allowing Vardy to get in there in the first place. It should have been totally snuffed out.
“But it was the only time our defence switched off in the game and Vardy took full advantage.
“If Jack Rodwell had scored at the other end and made it 1-1, it wouldn’t have been quite so bad this week and that was the only difference between the sides in the end.”