VITO MANNONE says it’s a “dream come true” to be crowned Sunderland Player of the Year.
But the goalkeeper is desperate to cap a memorable maiden campaign at the Stadium of Light by ensuring he is still Sunderland’s Premier League stopper next season.
Mannone became the second successive keeper to lift the Sunderland Supporters’ Player of the Year accolade last night after succeeding 2013 winner Simon Mignolet, while fellow Italian Fabio Borini was crowned Young Player of the Year.
Since arriving in a £2million deal from Arsenal last July, Mannone has become one of the few success stories among Sunderland’s summer spending spree and established himself as a firm favourite on the terraces.
But while Mannone is humbled by his own plaudits. the 26-year-old wants a happy ending to his first season as a Premier League regular.
Mannone told the Echo: “To win this prize now is a dream come true and another great achievement for me this season.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about. But I want to end the season in a really good way and try to get us to survive. That would be a massive present.
“I’m praying every day that we give our best in the last bit, in the last four games.
“I think we can make it now and it would be something unbelievable to be a Premier League goalkeeper again.”
Mannone believes Sunderland deserve to stay up after the transformation they have shown since Gus Poyet took charge last October, when the Black Cats boasted only one point on the board.
Even when the situation looked hopeless just a week ago, Sunderland have responded after taking four points from their trips to Manchester City and Chelsea.
“I hope we can stay up because from where we were, we deserve it, even if we have made some mistakes in games,” added Mannone.
“In general, we started from October- November to realise what we could do after the gaffer came in.
“We showed it in the cup run, showed it in some big games.
“There’s four games to go, it’s in our hands again and we need to show it again against the small clubs.
“It’s been an amazing season, but this club deserves it.
“You see the fans going everywhere and they’ve been brilliant.”
Mannone beat off competition from the likes of Phil Bardsley, Wes Brown, Adam Johnson and Ki Sung-Yueng to lift the main prize at the Stadium of Light awards presentation last night.
Borini was the clear winner in the Young Player prize, with the on-loan Liverpool frontman netting the seventh goal of his Sunderland spell in last weekend’s 2-1 victory at Chelsea.