SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill is making his mind up about players and positions in these last few games of the season.
And on Saturday, in the 2-2 home draw with Bolton, goalkeeper Craig 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.
“I was very pleased with Craig,” said O’Neill, after the £9million Scot’s first competitive game in 14 months. “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.”
The goalkeeper played not only his first game under O’Neill but also his first game of the season and his first game since February 2011.
“We had wanted to give him a game some time ago,” explained the Sunderland manager.
“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.
“I just had a chat will 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.
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 in the summer – with Gordon’s contract expiring.
“I couldn’t say at this moment in time 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.”