CRAIG Gordon is hoping an impressive return to the Sunderland side against Blackburn Rovers has given both his club and national managers a tough time.
Gordon was in excellent form in the 2-1 FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Ewood Park, but may still be on the bench when fellow strugglers Stoke arrive at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
And the Scotland international knows that, although his first appearance since November was a hugely encouraging one, he still has a massive fight on his hands to regain first-choice status at Sunderland – let alone guarantee his international spot.
“First and foremost, it’s just good to be back playing games,” said Gordon, who has struggled with a niggling ankle injury all season.
“But it’s obviously not going to harm my international prospects either.
“I don’t know what the situation would be with the national manager if I was to be out for a longer period of time.
“If I was back training but not playing games, I suppose it would give him a decision to make. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.
“Scotland have a get-together next week after the Stoke game, so hopefully it’s not too late for me to be involved in that.
“I’d like to think I’ll have had a couple of games in before then, but it’s up to the manager to decide that.
“I knew I was going to be playing for a few days and I was quite excited, to be honest.
“I was walking about with a smile on my face in training and that’s what every player wants
to do. You want to be playing football at the end of the week. That’s something I haven’t been able to look forward to for quite some time, so it was nice to get back out there.
“I was called upon to make a few saves, but that was always going to be the case coming away from home, especially at a difficult place like Blackburn.
“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t hold out long enough.”
Ricky Sbragia revealed this week that Gordon had been to see him following his return to fitness to seek reassurances about his place in the Black Cats’ pecking order.
The Sunderland manager, though, did not make any promises and Márton Fülöp, who has done well in Gordon’s absence, could well be back in goal against Stoke despite his rival’s performance against Rovers.
Gordon said: “It’s up to the manager now. I’ve put in a good performance and done all I could do.
“We’ll have to see what happens at the weekend, but I don’t think I could have done any more.
“It’ll be a tough decision for the manager, but that’s what he gets paid for.
“All we can do is go out there and do our best. Márton’s done a good job over recent weeks, but it was nice to be able to get back in and show what I’m capable of.”
Gordon has never had to contend with the frustration of a lengthy lay-off in his career, and admitted he had found it difficult at times as he was forced to watch as Fülöp enhanced his own reputation as a Premier League goalkeeper.
Nevertheless, Gordon, who cost Sunderland a £9.5m British record fee for a goalkeeper, has already shown plenty of mental strength in his 18 months on Wearside and he expects to regain his place eventually.
He added: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position.
“This is probably the first injury that’s kept me out for any significant period of time, and it’s not been easy to deal with.
“But at least that’s all it’s been. It wasn’t anything too serious, it just restricted what I was able to do.
“Now it’s fixed and hopefully I can get back into the team as soon as possible.
“I managed to miss both of the derbies this season, and when we manage to take four points from them, they’re obviously big games to miss.
“But I can’t sit and think about that now, I have to move on.
“I’m back fit now so I have to look to the future and continue doing what I’m doing.”