READING FC keeper Vito Mannone is determined to make his mum proud as she recovers from a life-threatening stroke.

Elisa Mannone was struck down suddenly last week, forcing the Italian stopper to pull out of the squad before the Bolton Wanderers clash.

He immediately flew back to Italy to be by her bedside after she underwent a life-saving operation.

But after speaking with his family, Mannone was soon on the plane back to the UK to continue playing for Reading.

And since his return the former Sunderland and Arsenal stopper has helped Royals keep back-to-back Championship clean sheets after a goalless draw with Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and 3-0 victory against Barnsley on Tuesday night.

“It’s been very tough but I wanted to get back and help the team because that makes my mum proud,” explained Mannone after a rollercoaster fortnight.

“We are all hoping she can recover. It’s very delicate and very soon, but hopefully she can make it through.

“It’s still very early and she is fighting for her life.”

He added: “I have been through tough stuff in my life already. I’m happy to be back playing football because that’s what my parents always wanted.

“I need to focus on the games and put my emotions to one side. I need to be sharp for my team.”

Reading Chronicle:

Vito Mannone has kept a clean sheet in Reading's last two Championship matches.

Tuesday’s comfortable win over Barnsley elevated Royals to 16th in the Championship table as goals from Dave Edwards, Joey van den Berg and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson clinched a first victory in four matches.

Mannone was a virtual spectator for most of the night as the toothless Tykes were snuffed out by Jaap Stam’s men.

“We played really well, we kept our composure,” said the 29-year-old. “We finally found the back of the net which is the most important thing.

“Barnsley came out in the second half because we were two goals up, but we found the net again and killed the game.

“The second clean sheet is important, it’s important for our goal difference that we score and keep clean sheets.

“Now we need to keep going and try and get as close to the top six as possible. This team can do it, we just need to keep up our form.”

Mannone is set to start for Royals again this Saturday when they make the long trip to Sunderland to face his former club (3pm ko).

He spent four years at the Stadium of Light from 2013-17, making 80 appearances, before his £2 million switch to Reading in the summer.

The big-hearted Italian is certain to get a warm reception on his return, though he expects nothing less than a difficult afternoon against Chris Coleman’s Black Cats.

“It’s always a tough game,” stressed Mannone. “I played in that stadium for four years so I know how it is.

“Sunderland won last weekend, so their spirits will be high. We just need to focus on ourselves and our gameplan. We need to be brave in such a big stadium.

“We can’t fool ourselves into thinking it’s going to be an easy game.”

Royals have a nine-day break after the Sunderland game – during which Mannone hopes to return to Italy to be with his mother again – before they host Cardiff City.