Although Craig Gordon has been recalled to the Scotland squad following his return from a broken arm, he faces a battle to reclaim his place in the Sunderland first team. In Gordon’s absence, Belgian Under-21 stopper Simon Mignolet has stepped up and produced a string a of impressive displays in the first team.
With Gordon back to fitness, Steve Bruce has had to make a decision regarding whether to stick with Mignolet or put Britain’s most expensive keeper back in the side. Bruce has admitted he can’t really drop Mignolet given the form he’s in.
“Simon’s performances over the course of the season so far have been nothing short of fantastic. It would be harsh on him to miss out this weekend simply because Craig is back,” the manager said.
Since signing for Sunderland in 2007 from Hearts in a £9 million move, Gordon has proved his ability to win games single handily. Bruce is right however when he says he can’t justifiably drop Mignolet when the youngster has shone this season. It wouldn’t set a very good precedent if Bruce started picking his team on name alone.
Mignolet will come under pressure to prove his manager’s decision correct when Sunderland host Manchester United this weekend. With Gordon sitting on the bench ready to take advantage of any mistake by Mignolet, the Belgian keeper will have to keep his form going. If Gordon got back in the team, Mignolet will be fully aware of how hard it would be to displace the Scot. The football odds suggest Sunderland will have a good season if their keeper stays in form.
With the season six games old, Sunderland find themselves in the familiar territory of mid-table, it could have been different if they had managed to hold onto their lead at Anfield last weekend. After coming back from a controversial early Dirk Kuyt opener, to score twice through a Darren Bent brace, Sunderland were pegged back through Steven Gerrard and finished the match with a point. At one point the Sunderland betting suggested the away side should have won.
Steve Bruce’s side struggled in large parts of last season and finished in 13th place in the Premier League, with the size of the club, Sunderland will be looking to push on this season and challenge for European places.