Sunderland’s ‘keeper situation is critical

Poor Robbin Ruiter had an absolute shocker in goal on Saturday afternoon.

The Dutchman criminally allowed a George Saville free-kick to creep through his legs, and then moments later his pathetic effort at saving another free kick from the same player saw Sunderland go behind in embarrassing fashion.

When Ruiter was brought in on a free transfer after impressing during a pre-season trial, the general feeling among supporters was optimistic. This was a man who was also courted by Premier League sides, so it seemed safe to assume the Black Cats were getting a half-decent stopper.

Unfortunately for Sunderland fans they have yet to see a performance from him which suggests he is anywhere near the standard expected at this level.

Ruiter has conceded 16 goals in nine games. Ouch.

Mind, Jason Steele is not much better. The former Middlesbrough stopper has conceded 20 goals in 10 games.

Coleman needs to put goalkeeping at the top of his “must fix” list.

Lewis Grabban is proving his worth every game

If Chris Coleman is looking to highlight positives within the group of hapless players he’s inherited, he needs look no further than Sunderland’s top scorer Grabban.

The ex-Norwich striker again showed his poaching instincts on Saturday to fire Sunderland ahead early in the first half. The man on loan from Bournemouth then scored a perfectly good goal in the second half that should have put Sunderland 3-2 up, but was disallowed to the bemusement of all in attendance.

The stats show Grabban nets once every 117 minutes, and he has six goals in his last five games – our new gaffer will definitely take heart from having a genuine goalscorer to call upon whenever needed.

Was Didier Ndong a miss?

When news came through that Didier Ndong would miss the Millwall game, there was concern, mainly because it likely meant that the out-of-form Lee Cattermole was certain to start the game. But Cattermole and his partner in the centre, Paddy McNair, actually played fairly well together and perhaps gave us a glimpse of what could be a decent pairing going forward.

Northern Ireland international McNair is not only a decent holding player but he looks a goal threat and is good on set pieces, which is what arguably puts him ahead of Coleman’s other options in midfield.

And though he has offered very little this season, everyone knows what a fully-fit and motivated Cattermole is capable of – with nobody expecting he would be so poor this season, particularly after he started so well against Derby County on the opening day of the campaign. If Coleman can work his magic, then who knows – maybe there’s life in the old Catts yet.

Jonny Williams – a man that thrived as an international player under Coleman for Wales – has a creative spark, and a coolness on the ball that Sunderland lack in other positions.

If Coleman’s time as Wales manager tells us anything it is that he likes to pack the centre of the park, meaning it’s very possible he might opt to deploy a five-man defence and three-man midfield.

There have been murmurings that Ndong might be one of the players sold in January – a natural assumption to make considering his age and potential – and if this is common knowledge at the club you just have to wonder how much attention the new manager will pay the Gabon international over the coming weeks and months.