Craig Gordon’s contract at Sunderland expires this summer. The Scottish goalkeeper returned to the first team in a 2-2 draw against Bolton at the end of April-this was his first appearance since February 2011. In the interim he has been plagued by anterior cruciate ligament problems, continuing a pattern of injuries that have seen him restricted to only 95 appearances for Sunderland since his £9 million transfer from Hearts in 2007.
Manager Martin O’Neill has reportedly told the ‘keeper he will have to take a considerable pay cut should he want to stay at the Stadium of Light. This is an understandable bargaining position given Gordon’s apparent vulnerability to long term injury-why pay £40,000-a-week to retain a player who has been less than reliable for the duration of his original contract? Some may even argue that it is generous of Sunderland to offer him the chance to salvage a reputation that has suffered from neglect in recent years.
While there may be an element of sympathy for the unfortunate run of injuries to have plagued Gordon, hardnosed football logic is surely still the primary consideration determining the club’s position. Gordon, at 29-years-old, is still relatively young for a goalkeeper and thus has the potential to perform at an elite level for a number of years. There has to be some expectation that he can come close to recapturing the form that prompted the initial outlay-in which case he may be able to oust Simon Mignolet and reclaim his position as Sunderland’s number one ‘keeper. At the very least they will have an international calibre ‘keeper who can keep Mignolet honest. In this sense it would represent a good business deal for Sunderland if they can retain his services but reduce the money they are paying for them.
Celtic are one club reportedly keeping an eye on developments with Gordon. The Glasgow club are said to favour a move to bring Gordon back to Scotland should they fail to retain the services of loan-signing Fraser Forster. Celtic will be unable to match Gordon’s current wages, so this would also entail a wage cut, but the prospect of Champions League football next season-and probably for the next few seasons given the situation at Rangers-might prove enticing enough to offset any loss of earnings. Gordon could also anticipate reigning unchallenged at Parkhead should he perform at anything like the level of which he is capable and an international recall would quickly follow. A move to another Premier League club would be far from guaranteed and any suitors would likely drive a hard bargain which might see him fail to match even the reduced wages being offered by Sunderland.
It is also unlikely that any of the teams playing in Europe next season would be enticed by the prospect of bringing in Gordon. His career trajectory, at one point, seemed to be taking him to a club regularly residing in the upper echelons of the league but it has altered considerably. Opting to stay at Sunderland would seem to be the most alluring of a not particularly appealing set of choices foisted on Gordon by his own misfortune.
It would be surprising if he wasn’t still motivated by a desire to earn the admiration demanded of a £9 million signing from the Scottish Premier League. The wage cut will represent a slight blow to his sense of prestige but it will allow him to stay at an upwardly mobile club with an accomplished manager who obviously considers him to be a credible contender if he can maintain his fitness.
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