Bruce hopes Gordon swerves Scots duty
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce does not want Scotland to pick Craig Gordon for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Spain. Gordon returned to action in a reserve game on Monday after recovering from his second broken arm in nine months. But Bruce will not rush the former Hearts goalkeeper back for his club's Premier League contest against Manchester United on Saturday. Bruce wants Gordon to slowly build up his fitness to avoid another recurrence of his arm problem and will keep Belgian youngster Simon Mignolet in goal. "He has been absolutely terrific and what that has enabled us to do is give Craig Gordon every chance to get back to full fitness in his own time and make sure he's confident that his arm is okay," Bruce told the Sunderland Echo. "Maybe in the past we might have played him in the reserves on Monday, and then shoved him straight back in the first team. But there's no need to do that now. "We've got the international break coming up, which will give him even more time to get himself right and then I'll have a decision to make in two or three weeks' time." Allan McGregor played well in Scotland's opening qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein but Gordon is the indisputable number one when fully fit. Bruce said: "I hope Scotland don't use him, because I think he just needs another two or three weeks of continuous training and hard work. "That's not in my hands though, we'll just have to wait and see about that." Bruce will find out tomorrow when Craig Levein names his squad, which is set to include at least one new face. QPR striker Jamie Mackie, who qualifies through the grandparent rule, is expected to be named after hitting eight Championship goals already this season. The 24-year-old is set to replace Kris Boyd, who netted his second goal for Middlesbrough after starting in their 3-1 defeat at Derby on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, John Hartson has backed former Celtic team-mate Shaun Maloney for a Scotland return after growing to appreciate the versatile forward even more since hanging up his boots. Maloney played in most of Scotland's World Cup campaign under George Burley but was left out of Levein's squad for the opening Euro 2012 qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein. The 27-year-old did not play last season after October after suffering a persistent hamstring injury, but he has made 10 appearances already this campaign and Celtic manager Neil Lennon has enthused over his displays. With James McFadden suffering a cruciate injury earlier this month, Maloney could be set to revive his international career more than a year after winning his 17th and most recent cap in a 1-0 defeat by Holland at Hampden. Hartson said: "I know Shaun is a wonderful talent. It's up to Craig Levein but if you're looking for someone to play off the front or play wide, he has great ability. He can pick people out, he's quick, he works very hard. "He's a great professional. I worked with him for five years, he works really hard on his game all the time. "But Craig has loads of different options. You can say there is cause for (Derek) Riordan to be back in after his performance against Celtic. "But hopefully he is in for Shaun's sake, because he deserves it." Hartson added: "When you're actually playing with somebody you don't really appreciate how well they are playing. "But when you watch them, you appreciate what good players they are." While Levein has options up front and in wide areas, he faces a selection problem in central midfield. Lee McCulloch is suspended for the Prague match on October 8 and Paul Hartley has been ruled out with a hamstring injury by Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee. Kevin Thomson has yet to return to the Middlesbrough team after breaking his leg in August. The former Rangers midfielder is ahead of schedule in his recovery and has not ruled himself out of the reckoning but his bid to build up his fitness was dealt a blow when a behind-closed-doors game scheduled for today was cancelled.
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