STEVE Bruce is hoping Craig Gordon will recover from a thigh injury in time to face Hull tomorrow, but the Sunderland boss is ready to hand Trevor Carson his senior Black Cats debut if the club’s £9m goalkeeper fails to pull through.
Gordon, who has struggled for most of the last 12 months with a long-standing knee problem, failed a fitness test ahead of Scotland’s 1-0 defeat to Holland on Wednesday.
With Marton Fulop also unlikely to be available tomorrow after missing Hungary’s crucial World Cup qualifier with Portugal because of a back problem, Bruce could be without both of his senior goalkeepers when Hull visit the Stadium of Light.
That would mean Carson making his Premier League bow, but having watched the 21-year-old from close quarters in training this week, the Sunderland boss insists it would not be a gamble to call upon the Northern Irishman’s services.
“I’ve no problems if I have to play Carson,” said Bruce.
“He’s a very decent goalkeeper and that’s why I didn’t go out and get another one when the chance was there.
“We’ve got two goalkeepers trying to make the number one jersey their own, and it’s sods law they’ve both got a problem at the same time. But I’m very happy with Carson and, if I have to use him, he’ll come in and do okay.”
Gordon’s latest injury is a particular source of concern, as it continues a miserable series of setbacks that have restricted the Scotsman to just 12 Sunderland appearances in the last 12 months.
Having been sidelined for almost five full months with a knee injury, Gordon is susceptible to strains as he steps up his involvement with the first team.
His current problem relates to the thigh muscle in his kicking leg, and Bruce admits he could continue to suffer from pulls and niggles in the next three months.
“When you’ve had a serious knee injury like Craig, the mechanics of goalkeeping – kicking a ball, getting up and down in training – are not easy,” said the Sunderland boss. “We’ve done our best to manage the situation, but I always thought two games in four days was going to be a bit much.
“They (Scotland) took the gamble to play him in the first one (against Macedonia) and it kept them in the World Cup, but the gamble they took has obviously backfired.
“He’s still sore, but it’s nothing to do with the knee and that was the major concern.
It’s been a struggle, and it’s going to be a struggle for the next eight or ten weeks because when you’ve been out as long as he has, it takes a certain length of time to get back into the groove.”
To complete a miserable international week for the Black Cats, George McCartney also returned to the Academy of Light carrying an injury.
The left-back has injured his hamstring, and while an initial prognosis of a six-week lay-off has now been reduced to less than a month, McCartney will definitely not be involved tomorrow.
His absence coincides with the first game for which Danny Collins is unavailable following his deadline-day move to Stoke, and while the timing of the defender’s departure now looks far from ideal, Bruce insists the move was too far down the line to pull the plug on it when his own attempt to sign Maynor Figueroa from Wigan collapsed.
“I was very close to bringing in another defender on transfer- deadline day, and I accepted the offer for Danny,” he said. “My deal fell through, so I was left with a decision of whether to let Danny go, but once I’d shown my hand to him and accepted the offer from Stoke, there was no going back.
“That’s what’s management is about, and these are the decisions you’re judged on. I hope the decisions I’ve made will be shown to be good ones.”
Collins is one of eight senior players to have left the Stadium of Light since Bruce was appointed in the summer, and the former Wigan boss admits there was a need to balance the books after he smashed the club’s transfer record to sign Darren Bent.
“You can’t keep asking the owner,” he said. “Even Chelsea haven’t done that. It’s not just a one-way thing. You have to try and balance the books a bit, and also balance the squad.
“I can’t just say to my coach, ‘Eric (Black), you’ve got 28 players today’. It’s difficult.
Maybe we’ve made the squad one or two short, but for the likes of the young lads like Jordan (Henderson) and David (Meyler), they’ll train with us every day now and hopefully that will enhance them.”