Sunderland's much-criticised Netflix documentary star finally makes Premier League debut for Brighton...and does very well!

There are three jobs which I consider to be dream occupations.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 9:54 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 9:56 am
Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele made his Premier league debut against Aston Villa last Saturday

Number one: Quality control taster for a Bordeaux vineyard. Number two: Actor who plays James Bond. And number three: Third choice goalkeeper at a Premier League club.

Obviously, we are here to discuss Brighton & Hove Albion rather than red wine or the replacement for Daniel Craig, so let us skip over those first two and get straight to the goalkeeper role. Or to be precise, the third choice goalkeeper role. Because that part is very important.

Ever since top flight clubs realised that an easy way to fulfil one of their home grown quota spots was by signing an English goalkeeper who is never going to play, it has become one of the most desirable jobs in the country.

Scott Carson at Manchester City. Robert Green at Chelsea. Lee Grant at Manchester United. All have been handsomely paid to turn up to training, occasionally sit on the bench in the League Cup and spend the rest of their time playing golf. I can't even play golf and it still sounds like an absolute pleasure.

It is what Jason Steele signed up for when he arrived at the Amex in the summer of 2018. After a chastening spell as one of the most underrated stars of the Netflix documentary Sunderland Till I Die, Steele had earned the right for a quiet life.

In the first few episodes of Sunderland Till I Die, Steele was the fresh faced goalkeeper who was looking forward to helping the Black Cats attempt to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Fast forward a few months and Steele's optimism had given way to shell shock as Sunderland instead headed for a second consecutive relegation.

He more than almost anyone else seemed to be impacted by the slide at the Stadium of Light, to the point where the excellent Roker Report website described Steele as the worst goalkeeper in Sunderland history.

When it was revealed that the Albion were actually paying a nominal fee to secure Steele's services, one Black Cats fan quipped that they could not believe Sunderland were getting more than a pack of Space Raiders for him.

At the time Steele signed for Brighton as third choice, he cannot have imagined that three and a half years later he would be making his Premier League debut as a 31 year old.

And yet because of Robert Sanchez's suspension, Graham Potter not yet trusting his new £4.2 million Dutch Under 21 international goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen, and the departures of Maty Ryan, David Button and Christian Walton, that is the situation Steele found himself in as the Albion traveled to Aston Villa.

The question then was what sort of performance would we be treated to from Steele? He has already become something of a cult hero amongst Brighton fans for his ability to go from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again in the blink of an eye.

There is no better example of that than when the Albion narrowly avoided the embarrassment of elimination from the FA Cup at the third round stage against League Two Newport County back in January.

Steele spent 120 minutes looking like a Sunday League goalkeeper playing still drunk after 17 pints of San Miguel the previous day - exactly what I would be like as a Premier League third choice goalkeeper, incidentally.

Having caused a penalty shoot out at Rodney Parade, Steele then went and saved four spot kicks to become the hero of the hour. It was a performance that Albion supporters will be talking about for years.

A lot of Brighton fans were understandably nervous about the presence of Steele in goal in a Premier League game. It was not exactly an easy introduction either, a packed Villa Park with opponents fired up to impress Steven Gerrard who was sat in the home dugout for the first time.

We need not have worried. Steele was one of the better Brighton players on an otherwise disappointing afternoon. He made three fine saves which prevented the 2-0 defeat becoming more embarrassing.

On a personal level, Steele's top flight bow could not have gone any better and if there are any lingering ghosts from those harrowing days at Sunderland, hopefully they have been exorcised.

Sanchez seems certain to return for the visit of Leeds United this weekend having served his one match ban. Steele will revert to number two again, a different role to the one he was signed to fill back in 2018 but one he is nonetheless doing a decent job in.

Which is enough to make me think twice about the dream of being a third choice Premier League goalkeeper. The last thing I would want is to suddenly be promoted to number two and actually have to play games of football.

Give me the wine tasting job instead...