CRAIG Gordon is set to leave Sunderland in the summer as part of Martin O’Neill’s Stadium of Light reshuffle.
The £9million goalkeeper has endured a nightmare season on Wearside and has not turned out for Sunderland for some 14 months due to injuries and being bumped down the pecking order.
Black Cats boss O’Neill has been careful not to slam the door on the former Scotland and Heart of Midlothian keeper, but Gordon has grown frustrated at life on the sidelines – and especially missing out on the first-team squad entirely in favour of rival shot-stoppers Keiren Westwood and Simon Mignolet of late.
Gordon is one of the few big earners who is out of contract at the end of the season and with O’Neill looking to make changes to his squad for next term, his exit will give the club some wriggle room to recruit.
O’Neill had indicated a desire to see Gordon in action, but even some dedicated work in training does not appear to have earned him a chance in the first team.
And with only three games left this campaign, time is fast running out for him to get an opportunity.
In reality, there appears to be no chance of Gordon staying on Wearside past the expiration of his contract.
As a free agent, Gordon will not be short on possible suitors.
Celtic were linked with the goalkeeper last week but he would also have options in the Premier League and Championship in England.
Wigan Athletic, who are braced to lose the services of highly-rated Ali Al Habsi, are understood to be interested.
Gordon’s departure will go some way to solving Sunderland’s wage dilemma, which stands in the way of O’Neill’s attempts to strengthen this summer.
Although the Black Cats are likely to shed loan man Nicklas Bendtner – who earns in excess of £50,000, and Wayne Bridge – there are no other senior players who are out of contract in the summer.
George McCartney, who is among the highest earners in the squad, has a year left of his deal and there is no guarantee West Ham will follow up his season-long loan.
However, Cristian Riveros is set to complete a permanent move to Turkish club Kayserispor.
O’Neill also has to make a decision on Kieran Richardson, another high earner, who has a year left on his deal.
Meanwhile, John O’Shea – set to be one of the cornerstones of O’Neill’s new-look squad – has accused his team-mates of letting the season tail off. He wants to see Sunderland pick up after three barren draws, beginning with Bolton at home on Saturday.
“When you are at home to Wolves and at Villa and you have only picked up two points you are hugely disappointed at dropping four,” said O’Shea (pictured top).
“Those four points could be the ones to keep us pushing towards the top eight or nine in the league.
“We are letting the season tail off a little bit after going on a fantastic run and we have to make sure we finish off as strongly as we can.
“It is an unforgiving league. You can be in eighth or ninth and two weeks later you could be in 14th.
“You want to make sure you are in that top half of the table.
“No matter if it was a team in the Champions League positions or one in the relegation zone, we are hoping to dominate at home, create lots of chances and win the game.
“That is something we will be looking to do on Saturday.”