The Sunderland manager, Ricky Sbragia, would be disappointed if the £9m goalkeeper Craig Gordon was comfortable with being out of the side. The 26-year-old Scotland international, who joined the Black Cats from Hearts for a British record fee for a goalkeeper in August 2007, finds himself displaced from the first team by the Hungarian Marton Fulop.
Gordon, who lost his place when he succumbed to an ankle injury in October, has made only two senior appearances since his return to fitness, and played for the reserves last night at his own request. He has made little secret of his disappointment at losing his No 1 spot, with the national team manager George Burley also expressing his concern. But Sbragia has insisted that Gordon will have to fight to win back his place.
The 52-year-old said: "That's what I want from him. I spoke to him last week and [the goalkeeping coach] Raimond [van der Gouw] is in a lot of dialogue with him. He has probably never been in that situation. He has probably always been ever present, he has always come in and got the No 1 jersey.
"But Marton has been super. Marton was patient – I know he wasn't happy with it, but we said if the opportunity comes, you have to take it and at present he has done well. Craig played in the reserves last night and he was excellent. His attitude was good.
"There will come a time when we have to make a decision, but at present Marton is playing well. I would hope it would make Craig mentally strong. I know he is disappointed, and I would expect him to be disappointed."
Sbragia's comments came after Gordon had opened his heart following his appearance in the second string's 2-0 victory over Wigan. The keeper said: "I know Marton was very frustrated in the summer when he hadn't had a look-in last season, and now I know how he felt. It's not nice. I still don't see myself as being behind anybody and I'm sure Marton sees it the same way.
"That was always going to be the situation when you have two international goalkeepers fighting for one place in the side. There is a situation here in that we both want to play, and there is nothing wrong with that. But whoever is not playing is going to be very unhappy indeed – that's the way it is. All I can do is focus on doing my job and, hopefully, I will get my place back as quickly as possible."
Ironically, Fulop's future looked to lie away from the Stadium of Light during the summer with his lack of action threatening his international prospects. He had a transfer request accepted, but a switch to Stoke fell through, and his chance arrived on Wearside just months later, and it is one he has taken with some relish.
Sbragia said: "It wouldn't be right for me just to drop Marton. If I am saying I want competition within the squad I have got, it would be a case of someone going in for one game and having an outstanding game, but because I have got a No 1 keeper, I just bring him back out.
"Marton made a mistake at Liverpool, but he did quite well against Tottenham and I just basically take each game as it comes. I look at what I think maybe Wigan will be strong at and take it from there.
"The two of them will be working hard together and there's a lot of communication with Raimond as well, and I would be really disappointed if he was not unhappy. It's a learning time for him as well."Reuse content