Sunderland take on Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday in a game where three points for the Black Cats will be more than vital.
The Black Cats sit uncomfortably in 23rd place in the Sky Bet Championship table, possessing just 31 points from their 40 games. A loss would place them at least eight points shy of safety, a margin that could be as wide as 11 points should 21st place Birmingham City manage to beat bottom club Burton Albion on Saturday.
Should that be the case, then Sunderland would be looking at an effective four-game deficit with only five games left – a situation that would look like almost definite relegation to League One.
Results and consistency has been hard to come by for the Mackems over what has been a pretty dismal season, one that even former Wales manager Chris Coleman is going to struggle to salvage.
Coleman however, has other thoughts on his mind ahead of Saturday’s Elland Road match-up and has been talking to the Sunderland Echo about the keeper situation at the Stadium of Light. The stopper situation at Sunderland has been as inconsistent as performances on the pitch, with Robbin Ruiter, Jason Steele and Lee Camp having all struggled to claim the #1 spot – the Black Cats having made six changes in all.
One thing that he picks up on is that a fourth keeper, Polish youngster Max Stryjek, is not ready to step into the mix and make it four keepers and seven changes on Wearside. The inconsistency of the club’s three main stoppers has led to calls from some quarters to promote the 21-year-old who had a loan spell at Accrington Stanley earlier in the season.
However, Coleman is loath to do so, citing the fact that he doesn’t think that the time is the right time for throwing him in at the deep end. The Sunderland boss responded to the pleadings for his inclusion saying, “If I thought he was ready I would try him, but there are certain things he needs to do before he plays. He’s been out on loan and did OK, but I don’t think he’s ready to play for us yet.”
Coleman goes on to state that, “We’ve got Lee [Camp] and Jason [Steele] and it has been up and down for the pair of them, they’ve had their critics. But I don’t think Max is at that level yet with his experience that he comes in and plays for us, certainly not in the position that we’re in. I think he’s got certain things to do before he reaches that.”
Whoever gets the nod between the sticks for Sunderland, it’s going to be a high-pressure game with a further step into the abyss of relegation should it be home side Leeds United that take the three points on offer.