SAFC 3 Birmingham 1: is Craig Gordon the new Monty?


SEE ALSO: guess-who-was-our-star

In praise of a footballer who has had to triumph over doubt – and done so in style …

More years ago than Salut! Sunderland would willingly own up to to remembering, an away game took us to Huddersfield, where Sunderland won 3-0 in a game that began with a blitz on our goal.

The reason we weren’t left with an uphill struggle before scoring ourselves was simple: Jimmy Montgomery’s form that day was not so much outstanding as extraordinary.

monty (plus portferield and tueart)
He made a series of saves that told me – a would-be keeper on my own account, admittedly at a somewhat lower (school!) level – he was utter class. I can still conjure, just about, mental images of Monty’s outstretched palm pushing a header to safety, or diving a mile high to grab a shot.

Other fans of a certain age will recall different games where he excelled. Everyone knows about 1973 and Wembley, even if they weren’t yet born.

And today, from Craig Gordon, we witnessed a display between Sunderland goalposts of Montyesque quality and skill.

At half-time I wrote that despite Darren Bent’s goals – great strikes, incidentally – our star was Craig Gordon. And so it continued as Birmingham mounted a wave of attacks that, in all honesty, merited a point.

Was it, overall, seven or eight or nine quite brilliant saves that Gordon made? Three crackers in the first half, when we were actually the better side, and several more after the break when the Blues were in the ascendancy.

It was a performance that took me back not only to Monty’s various heroics but to the night I first became aware of Craig Gordon’s goalkeeping prowess.

Sitting at home, which was then in Paris, I turned the television to the France v Scotland game that the records will always show was decided by an incredible strike from James McFadden – also present today, for Birmingham – but was in fact won by one wonder save after another by Gordon. The French press drooled about how good he was.

He has taken a while to reproduce that match-winning or match-saving form for Sunderland. But it has come this season: suddenly more commanding in his territory (probably because the defenders at last command confidence), and suddenly pulling off decisive saves.

He was, as Steve Bruce has said, doiing well until a red card (but unpunished) challenge by Defoe at Spurs forced a long layoff. He has come back as an absolute star.

Mancini was full of praise after the Man City game, I haven’t yet seen Alec McLeish’s quotes* but cannot imagine him being less effusive.

Salut! Sunderland will not be hypocritical enough to suggest it has never harboured doubts about Gordon in a Sunderland shirt, and at such a price (in itself not his fault).

Those doubts would have been swept away in any case by the general standard of his goalkeeping this season. The events of last Sunday and today tell us the doubts should not really have existed inthe first place.

Colin Randall

* Alex McLeish has spoken: “Craig Gordon has saved them from losing, he was magnificent. That was an international class performance from him.

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8 Responses to “SAFC 3 Birmingham 1: is Craig Gordon the new Monty?” Subscribe

  1. Pete Sixsmith March 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    Is he better than Shamus Mc Donagh? Can he hold a candle to Kelvin Davies? How does he compare to Bob Bolder? Can he drink as much as Sandy McLaughlan? Can he be an improvement
    on Iain Hesford.
    Answers; Yes; Yes; Better by far; No; Work in progress.
    Brilliant today. The double save he made in the second half brought a once sceptical crowd to its feet. Well done Roy Keane for moving in on him while others doubted.

  2. sobs March 21, 2010 at 1:42 am #

    another absolutely top-drawer performance from Gordon. Oooh, if he were English, I’d be having a bet on a world cup triumph for the three lions. When you get half a dozen class saves in one game, you know yo ‘ve got a good’unu

  3. salutsunderland March 21, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    As has been pointed out at the Blackcat lists, his general improvement in the box has coincided with the settled, authoritative pairing of Mensah and Turner, both of whom played excellently yesterday.
    When the keeper can have faith in the men directly in front of him, it makes a huge difference to his own confidence – though the chances came from somewhere for him to have to make so many blinding saves, so SB still has work to do opn the defence and midfield.

  4. Bragasaga March 21, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    As a Hearts fan, I’m delighted that Craig is matching the standards that he showed for us. It’s been obvious to all of us watching though, that a settled defence that he knows will make all of the difference. That’s pretty much what he had at Hearts with at least two Scottish International defenders present and helping to marshall the defence. In his first two seasons at Sunderland the back four has been laughable, making bizarre decisions and providing the sort of defensive cohesion that no goalkeeper could account for. Now that you have a manager who was a defender it is beginning to show that it can be organised (not that I am a fan of Bruce-who waffles too much) and that Gordon has at least an idea of what each defender is capable of AND the confidence to go with what he thinks is about to happen and not expect some ridiculous pass-back. We’ve watched as quite a few Mackems have given him alot of stick whilst being seemingly oblivious to a lousy defensive 4 – shame that is likely to be forgotten in future too! Good luck for the rest of the season and next season too. I reckon that Sunderland could really make a challenge for a European place.

  5. kable March 21, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Yes the fans had and perhaps still have doubts. Our objectivity is clouded as the £9M price take weighs heavily on us not on him!

  6. malcolm March 21, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    Mensah and Turner look like a good pairing and must help Craig’s confidence. Imagine having to play behind Nosworthy! Also Hutton has pace and I an impressed with him going forward which gives the opposition more to think about. Ferdinand has looked much more solid than McCartney and could make the full back spot his if he isn’t off loaded in the summer. But surely the number of saves that CG is having to make must point to the fact there is still more work to do with the defence on the training ground. Have always rated Gordon as a shot stopper with good reactions. My own doubts Bragasaga, were with his ability to deal with crosses and command the penalty area. But he would be my keeper of choice in the Premiership at the moment and if the interest in Kirkland is genuine I hope it is as cover/competition for Craig.
    Things are looking brighter this morning.

  7. Jeremy Robson March 22, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    Pete. Thankfully no comparison was forthcoming about Bobby Mimms or Michael Ingham!

    Gordon has been absolutely flawless. He has had his doubters, and rightly so. He’s had a couple of lukewarm seasons behind him and looks like he’s going from strength to strength. The strange thing about the 9M tag is that it weighs very heavy and everyone talked about it when he wasn’t playing as well as he is now. At the moment everyone is just talking about how good he is. It can’t have been easy for him but he looks the part this season.

  8. Bragasaga March 22, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    The one thing that surprised me when Craig played for Hearts was that he never got quite the loud adulation that some of our one-season wonders got. He regularly made exceptional saves and to a degree was almost taken for granted since that became expected of him. The bigger the game the better the performance usually. Niemi before him was also exceptional but had a more vocal chant from the crowd. Craig certainly got the credit in print but during a game he never got so much of the singing. I wonder, is that the situation at Sunderland? I also hope that Bent fnishes as top english scorer in the league and forces selection for the England squad as it’s the only way that he’ll edge past the usual suspects that are championed by the media – Heskey and Crouch to name but 2. All the best for the rest of the season.

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