It has now been just under two months since Bayern Munich loaned out goalkeeper Ron-Thorben Hoffmann to Sunderland AFC in English Football League One along with Leon Dajaku. Hoffmann has made a total of eight appearances for the Black Cats, boasting a record of five wins, one draw, and two losses from said matches. He’s also recorded three clean sheets in the process and has generally been received as a positive loan signing by Sunderland fans.
Last week, we took the time to catch up with Sunderland expert Graham Falk, who’s the host of the “What the Falk” Podcast and a journalist for the Scotsman. When the loan moves for both Hoffmann and Dajaku were officially announced, I had gone on Graham’s podcast to discuss what Sunderland fans could expect from the pair of players and it would appear as if my Hoffmann predictions have come to fruition.
For all things Sunderland, be sure to give What the Falk a listen and be sure to give Graham a follow on Twitter @GrahamFalk. Thanks again, Graham! Haway the lads!
So far, has Ron-Thorben Hoffmann exceeded your initial expectations at Sunderland?
He has actually! Obviously when you’re in division 3 and you hear you’re getting a ‘keeper from Bayern Munich, you get excited. However, in truth, few of us knew much about him so it was hard to judge. He’s pulled off some unbelievable saves though, and seems to be doing it weekly now. Long may it continue.
Has it become very clear from Lee Johnson that Hoffmann is 100%, without a doubt, the current #1 keeper for Sunderland for the foreseeable future?
The short answer is yes, without a doubt. Lee Burge has been our number one for a few seasons, but its fair to say the bulk of fans weren’t his biggest fan after he made a clutch of mistakes, so Hoff most definitely has made the position his to lose. I hope he stays longer than the season and becomes our permanent number one.
What specific attributes do you notice that he brings to Sunderland that helps their defensive record? Commanding in the air? Shot-stopping? Tactical shouts? Passing out from the back? All of the above?
You can tell he’s trained with (Manuel) Neuer, put it that way. Its hard to pinpoint because he’s been good all round, but what I’d pick out is the following: his passing out from the back is excellent. His little chipped balls to our strikers are so accurate, he’s almost placing it on Ross Stewart’s nipple. I don’t think he’s as ‘sweeper’ like as Neuer, but he’s rarely flustered and rarely plays us into trouble with his passing. Secondly, his reaction saves have been incredible. He made a save that won us the game against Gillingham last week. It was a looping 40 yard bullet header and somehow he managed to palm it onto the post. Take a look through some Sunderland fans videos of him recently and you’ll see some saves that are outstanding.
Do you still see any weaknesses in his game that need improving?
His debut was shaky, if I had to be picky. He’s hugely improved since, but he looked nervous on his debut and it made him a a bit suspicious on crosses BUT — and its a big but — he’s looked nothing but assured since then. I noticed in training their were getting players stuck on him to simulate the rough and tumble this league sometimes is, so maybe that’s a weakness? But aside from his debut, its hard to pick any faults so far.
In a recent column for kicker, Hoffmann wrote that at Sunderland and League One, “This is beer, not bubbly, this is English football and not the Champions League, there are so many and so real emotions.” If Sunderland were, in fact, a beer, what beer would it be? Us Bayern fans love us a good bier!
A double maxim. A good old fashioned Sunderland drink. Full of local pride, and hard work from Sunderland people. Doesn’t always taste perfect, but you drink it up anyway, because its ours!
Lastly, do you think a keeper like Hoffmann is something that’s been missing at Sunderland? Is he a big puzzle piece to gain promotion?
He’s very much part of the new project we have at Sunderland. Young, hungry players that can evolve and grow with the club — same with Leon Dajaku. He’s a marked difference to what we’ve signed in the recent past — capable, but old and no resale value. He’s obviously got a great mindset as he loves it here, and his ability is there for all to see. If I’m honest - and I’m one of the fans who doesn’t completely dislike Lee Burge as a ‘keeper— we’ve needed a goalkeeper who instills more confidence in the fans, and the Hoff does that and more. He’s not the only one, but he’s playing a huge role in the new look Sunderland and - if Bayern don’t mind - we’d quite like it if he stayed.