Gordon set to leave as Sunderland's forgotten man

First published in Football The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

HE arrived as the most expensive goalkeeper in British football, but Craig Gordon is set to leave Sunderland this summer as the club's forgotten man.

Gordon's contract is due to expire at the end of the current campaign, and Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill has shown little desire to enter into negotiations over a new deal given the Scotsman's lack of first-team involvement.

Gordon has not made a single senior appearance this season, having only managed 15 starts last term in Steve Bruce's final full season as manager.

A succession of serious arm and knee injuries have hampered his career as a Sunderland player, and created a situation where he now seems certain to leave for nothing in the summer.

With Simon Mignolet firmly established as the Black Cats' number one and Keiren Westwood the club's preferred alternative when fit, Gordon is understandably unhappy with his role as a number three.

It is not what either Gordon or Sunderland envisaged when he made a £9m move from Hearts in August 2007, but the 29-year-old still has a powerful supporter within the Wearside ranks.

Jimmy Montgomery remains Sunderland's most celebrated shot-stopper, and while the 1973 FA Cup winner is no longer involved in a coaching capacity, the newly-appointed club ambassador remains a huge Gordon fan.

"It's difficult for Craig and he'll have to bide his time, but hopefully

he'll get another year's contract to help prove himself again," said Montgomery. "I'd like to see him get another year's contract, get a pre-season under his belt and fight for his place again.

"Craig's been really unfortunate. When he first came in he didn't have the best of times. Whether it was the £9m on his head, I don't know.

"He was out of the side for a while with his arm and when he came back in he had a great period. Then he got the pin taken out of his arm, then his injury to his knee. When he came back the second time he did really, really well. He has been really unfortunate.

"Two or three times, he's been having a really good time when he got injured. Now his contract's up he's going to have to prove himself again.

"The only way he can do that at this moment in time is on the training pitch and in the reserve team. It's difficult in the reserves, but in training people will see what he's capable of and what he can still do."

Nevertheless, with Mignolet emerging as one of the most promising goalkeepers in the Premier League and Westwood having impressed during his ten appearances this season, Gordon's prospects on Wearside are slim.

"It's difficult keeping three happy," admitted Montgomery. "Normally you have a couple, like when we had (Alex) Chamberlain and (Tony) Norman, or Barry Siddall and Chris Turner, but now there are three excellent keepers.

"When Mignolet was out with his (broken) nose, Westwood came in and did a great job.

"You've got three excellent keepers and no matter who goes in will do a great shift. It's just up to the manager who he feels comfortable with."

* Sunderland youngster Blair Adams has extended his loan at League Two side Northampton Town until the end of the season.

Striker Jordan Cook has extended his loan at Carlisle United by another 31 days, having already spent more than two months with the Cumbrians.

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