Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon gives boss food for thought

CATS RETURN ... Craig Gordon against Bolton, his first game for Sunderland since February 2011.
CATS RETURN ... Craig Gordon against Bolton, his first game for Sunderland since February 2011.

CRAIG Gordon has given Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill something to think about after a fine display on his recall to the first team.

O’Neill has said he wants to take a look at a couple of players in the last few games of the season as he already makes plans for the new campaign.

And on Saturday, Gordon passed a major test with flying colours, returning to the side to show glimpses of why he was once of such great interest to the Premier League’s leading clubs.

The goalkeeper, below, a £9m signing from Hearts but out of contract in the summer, played not only his first game under O’Neill, but his first since February last year.

“I was very pleased with Craig,” said O’Neill. “He did very well.

“A few weeks ago it was important just for him to get fit.

“But he’s fully fit now and I wanted to see him in a game rather than a behind-closed-doors match

“It was important he played in a competitive game so we could see what condition he was in.”

“We had wanted to give him a game some time ago.

“That’s not to say I wasn’t absolutely delighted with Simon Mignolet – who has been brilliant since coming in on New Year’s Day.

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“I just had a chat with all three goalkeepers because I needed to see Craig in a game to see if he had regained that fitness.

“I was very pleased with him after being out for such a long time, and I think playing again will have given him a big boost in confidence.

“The door has never been closed to him, but we’ve had to get him fit first, and on the evidence of his performance we have three very capable goalkeepers.”

Whereas O’Neill will feel as though virtually every position in his squad could be strengthened, the goalkeeping department is the exception, with Gordon, Mignolet and Keiren Westwood on his books.

And rather than bringing someone in, the manager is likely to face the choice with his goalkeepers of which of the internationals might be allowed to leave.

“I couldn’t say at this moment in time on what will happen but we have to look at it,” he nodded.

“I have three very good goalkeepers, and the way Craig performed I might have a difficult decision to make.”