PHIL PARKINSON is determined to keep Jon McLaughlin at Sunderland beyond the end of the season, and expects contract negotiations with the goalkeeper to progress in the next few weeks.

McLaughlin’s current deal is due to expire in the summer, and despite the 32-year-old having expressed a desire to remain on Wearside, talks over a new agreement have repeatedly stalled.

Stewart Donald turned down a number of offers for the shot-stopper last summer, but flagged up problems when he suggested McLaughlin’s agent would have to be “more realistic” when he was asked about ongoing discussions in the autumn.

McLaughlin broke his silence on the situation at the start of year, admitting things had gone “very quiet” in the wake of Parkinson’s appointment as Jack Ross’ successor.

Parkinson dropped the Scotsman at the start of his reign, but having restored him to the starting line-up in early December, he has watched McLaughlin make some crucial contributions to Sunderland’s improved defensive displays.

As a result, McLaughlin’s future has once again become a hot topic, and while there is bound to be outside interest if the current contractual impasse is not resolved, Parkinson is keen to keep his number one goalkeeper at the Stadium of Light.

“Jon is someone we would like to keep,” said the Black Cats boss, ahead of tomorrow’s promotion clash with Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium. “The chairman and Richard Hill (head of football operations) will be working on that.

“He is performing well, but he has to keep his standards high, and when the chairman is ready, he will deal with that situation.

“Jon’s recent record puts him up there as one of the best in this division. He is calm, and has a lot of experience. At Bradford, he played in a lot of big promotion games. He played in big cup games too, and always handled the pressure well.”

McLaughlin has wrestled back his starting spot from Lee Burge, who joined Sunderland on a free transfer from Coventry City last summer.

Burge started Parkinson’s first three matches in charge, but lost his spot when he suffered an injury in the first half of October’s 1-0 defeat at Shrewsbury. McLaughlin came off the bench at half-time, retained his place for the midweek EFL Cup game at Oxford United and has not looked back since.

Parkinson accepts Burge will feel hard done by given he did nothing wrong before his injury, but is happy to have two experienced goalkeepers battling for a starting spot. If the Black Cats win promotion this season, he will be comfortable heading into a Championship campaign with the two goalkeepers currently on the books.

“I’m happy with both of them,” he said. “Jon’s 32, which is no age for goalkeeper at all. You almost say that goalkeepers get to their peak around their early 30s. And Burgey’s got real potential too. So yeah, we’re really pleased with them.

“Lee Butler (goalkeeping coach) is enjoying working with them, but he wants to keep pushing them. He speaks about that a lot. It’s great that Jon’s got his clean sheets, well done for that, but we really don’t want to get into a situation where we’re patting ourselves on the back too much.”

Tuesday’s clean sheet against Rochdale was Sunderland’s sixth shut-out in the last seven games, a run that has been the foundation for the club’s return to the play-off positions.

Parkinson’s decision to switch to three centre-halves has paid dividends, with the January arrival of Bailey Wright bolstering an already-resilient defence.

There have been games in the last couple of months when McLaughlin has had precious little to do, but when he has been called upon, he has responded effectively, reproducing the kind of form that earned him two senior caps for Scotland earlier in his career.

“I made the change when I first came in, and Jon knew straight away he had competition with Burge,” said Parkinson. “He had genuine competition because Burge is a good keeper - he will consider himself unlucky not to have stayed in for longer.

“Jon was a very good keeper last year, but he didn’t have a great start to the season and has had to go up a level in everything he does to get back in. At the moment, we are very pleased with his contribution.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland youth goalkeeper Adam Richardson has signed his first professional contract at the Academy of Light amid ongoing interest from Manchester United.