After Sunderland endured a nightmare season during 2017/18, many questioned the quality of the three goalkeepers the Black Cats used. All three proved error-prone and cost Sunderland vital points in their relegation battle. Had Jon McLaughlin been in goal, they may have just finished another Championship season. Instead, they have been battling for promotion from League One.
The signing of a confident keeper was a must last summer. In came the Scotland international on a free transfer from Hearts, his contract having expired. After watching three calamitous keepers the previous season, fans were happy a new stopper had been signed; however, many were also worried. They shouldn’t have been.
Sunderland’s Jon McLaughlin is an Unsung Hero
From Calamity Keepers to Mr Dependable
When Jordan Pickford left for Everton two years ago, Sunderland needed a suitable replacement. Three goalkeepers were signed over the course of six months. Two will go down in history as two of the worst goalkeepers seen on Wearside. The third, Robin Ruiter, also endured a tough time. Mistakes cost the Black Cats both goals and valuable points. Ruiter, however, has redeemed himself with some assured displays in the EFL Cup this season.
When Jack Ross became manager, he could ill afford to have another error-prone keeper in the side. He turned to Jon McLaughlin. The Scottish international had just had an outstanding season with Hearts and was out of contract. He was also experienced in England’s lower leagues. He was an ideal signing and Sunderland went from error-strewn to dependable in goal.
McLaughlin has quietly gone about his business in the Sunderland goal. Marshalling his defence and commanding his area as well as producing match-winning saves have made McLaughlin Mr Consistent. An almost error-free season has given confidence to the players in front of him.
Key to Team Reaching Play-Off Final
Not only have McLaughlin’s saves helped Sunderland pick up points in the 46 game season, he was a huge factor in the team progressing to the play-off final. McLaughlin and his teammates kept two clean sheets against Portsmouth in the semi-final. His performance in the second leg where the Black Cats held a slender one-goal lead meant that that solitary goal was enough to see Sunderland through to the final.
Manager Jack Ross has been very complimentary towards his number one, saying: “You need goalkeepers to make big saves in big games, the teams that are successful will always have good goalkeepers and I have one in Jon.
“His contribution has been very good this season. In recent times he has been far less busy and that is probably reflective in him not winning the player of the year award at our place.”
Sunderland have had several stand-out performers this season. Aiden McGeady, Chris Maguire are two that have received many plaudits and awards. They create and score excellent goals. In doing so they grab the headlines. However, at the back, Jon McLaughlin has been the team’s unsung hero.
Getting on quietly with his job and doing it well can make many complacent and forget the huge role he plays. Only now is he beginning to get the credit he deserves. Fans show their appreciation each game but now a wider audience are giving him the plaudits he deserves.