TEENAGE goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been placed on stand-by to sit on the bench for Sunderland in the Premier League this Sunday.
The Black Cats' second choice goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was forced out of the Republic of Ireland's friendly with Greece last night with a groin problem.
Westwood has returned to Wearside for further treatment and assessment after a scan revealed some damage and it is hoped he will still be deemed fit for the trip to Fulham this weekend.
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But if the Irish No 1 fails to make a full recovery over the next 48 hours then Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill will have to look towards the inexperienced Pickford to provide back-up to Simon Mignolet.
Pickford spent last season on loan at Darlington, where he impressed Sunderland academy coach Craig Liddle, and has represented England at various youth levels.
The 18-year-old figured for Sunderland's first team for the first time during the summer, when O'Neill used him as a substitute in the 3-2 win over Groningen at the Peace Cup in South Korea.
O'Neill could do without disruptions after the international break as he looks to lead Sunderland to victory for only the second time in 18 Premier League matches.
There were encouraging signs from Sunderland at Goddison Park on Saturday but in the end Adam Johnson's goal ended with nothing as Everton went on to win 2-1.
In a bid to strengthen Sunderland's goalscoring problems he was offered a reminder of Connor Wickham's potential on Tuesday.
Wickham scored for the England Under-21s in the 2-0 win over Northern Ireland at Blackpool, just weeks after he hit the winner in Serbia.
The former Ipswich striker, interesting a number of Championship clubs, has also been scoring goals for the Sunderland development squad this season.
And Wickham said: "It's important for me to score. I had quite a few chances and luckily one went in.
"It's just down to me to prove to the manager that I can stake a claim in the team, and keep my performances going and scoring goals."