CRAIG Gordon flew to Sweden today to get the go-ahead to play his part in Sunderland’s survival battle.
The Scotland keeper has missed Sunderland’s last six games with a knee problem that was expected to confine him to the bench until the end of the season.
But after stand-in Simon Mignolet’s part in gifting Birmingham the lead during Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at St Andrew’s, Gordon is back in the frame to help Sunderland ensure Premier League survival.
Gordon was given a series of strength exercises by Swedish knee specialist Professor Hakan Alfredson last month in a bid to delay an operation.
The 28-year-old headed to Scandinavia again this morning for another assessment.
But Sunderland have instructed Professor Alfredson that they cannot afford to let Gordon have an operation with their situation so precarious.
Boss Steve Bruce wants Gordon back in contention for Saturday’s crucial clash with Wigan and the £9milliion stopper will have to manage the pain until the summer.
Bruce said: “Craig is going to see the specialist again but we’re going to have to ask him to delay having an operation and play on.
“We’re going to have to manage the problem the best we can, but he will come back in.
“We can’t let him have the operation now because of the situation we are in.”
Belgian stopper Mignolet has arguably been Sunderland’s most consistent performer during the six games Gordon has missed despite the Black Cats continuing to plummet towards the bottom three.
The 22-year-old made his senior Belgium debut in the process and looked ready to give Bruce a real headache over who his number one keeper would be.
But Mignolet got in a horrifying mix-up with Phil Bardsley to present Birmingham with their opener while questions were asked over whether he could have done better with Craig Gardner’s second.
Bruce may feel that he needs a more experienced pair of hands between the sticks against fourth bottom Wigan as Sunderland look to end a dire run of eight defeats in nine games.
Meanwhile, Nyron Nosworthy will not be returning to Sunderland despite reports that Sheffield United had terminated his loan deal.
The 30-year-old defender will remain at Brammall Lane until the end of the season.