WITH Phil Parkinson expected to make changes for Sunderland’s FA Cup first-round replay at Gillingham tomorrow night, goalkeeping coach Lee Butler has tipped teenage goalkeeper Anthony Patterson to make it to the very top.

With Jon McLaughlin on international duty with Scotland, Patterson was on the substitutes’ bench as Sunderland crashed out of the Leasing.com Trophy at Scunthorpe United last week.

The 19-year-old could find himself on the bench again tomorrow, although with Lee Burge only just returning from injury, the Tyneside-born youngster could find himself promoted to the starting line-up for his senior debut.

He has been a regular with the Under-23s for the last couple of seasons, and has impressed both Parkinson and his predecessor, Jack Ross, with his professionalism and natural talent.

Butler has only worked with him for a couple of weeks following his appointment as goalkeeping coach, but the experienced gloves-man has been impressed with what he has seen.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with him,” said Butler, who followed Parkinson to Wearside after stints at Bradford and Bolton. “I’m pushing him a little bit more.

“I think he can get better, but he’s got the best hands of a young goalkeeper, well probably any goalkeeper, I’ve worked with for a long time. He’s got great hands.

“He makes big saves and he’s a good shot-stopper but it’s not all about that, and he knows that. He can take a telling off. Some of these young keepers, you have to just nudge them, whereas with Patts, you can give him a telling off.

“He’s doing everything I ask of him. He’s a bit quiet in games, so I’m getting him to talk a bit more. It’s not natural to him like it was with (Jordan) Pickford. He naturally wants to be involved, talking quite a lot, but that’s not Patto’s personality. But he’s got to get that into his footballing personality.”

As well as encouraging Patterson to be more vocal and authoritative in his own 18-yard box, Butler has also been working on the youngster’s athleticism.

At some stage, he would almost certainly benefit from a loan move, but for now, Butler is happy to see him soaking up the experience of working with the Black Cats’ senior group.

“He seems very grounded, and I’m really enjoying working with him,” said Butler. “I’ve not seen him play any games, but I’ve read reports and seen clips. Talking to him, he thinks he can get better at coming for crosses, he can do better with his communication, and possibly his distribution too.

“Jon’s got good athleticism - he’s naturally athletic, whereas Patto’s probably not got natural athleticism, so we need to work on that, you know on his spring and stuff. But, he’s got the right profile to be a top keeper in my eyes.”

Patterson is not the only youngster contending for a place in the squad that will travel to Gillingham. Bali Mumba could feature at right-back with Conor McLaughlin and Tom Flanagan both unavailable, while Brandon Taylor could start at centre-half with injury concerns over both Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch.