Craig Gordon could have been lining up in goal for Hearts – instead of against them – tomorrow if Celtic hadn’t scuppered Robbie Neilson’s bid to bring his friend and former team-mate back to Tynecastle.
In the summer of 2014, the newly-appointed head coach asked the goalkeeper, who was eyeing a return to top-level football after several years of battling chronic injury problems, if he was interested in trying to revive his career at the club where it all began.
Gordon instead opted for Celtic, and Hearts swiftly moved to bring in Neil Alexander, which has proved to be a shrewd signing as both player and goalkeeping coach.
“I spoke to him before he went to Celtic because I knew he had issues and he was looking for a club and he was one I would have been delighted to get in,” said Neilson. “But he had the opportunity to go there. It was a chance to play Champions League football which is understandable.”
Gordon’s decision has been vindicated by the fact he has now played 100 matches for club and country since joining Celtic, emphatically killing off concerns that his career as a top-level goalkeeper was over.
“He was thinking about retiring so to get back in and then to get back to the level he is at is phenomenal,” said Neilson. “If he got the issue with the knee cleared up there was never any doubt he was going to be a top goalkeeper again. But for him to be able to manage it and get through that problem is great to see.
“He could have just chucked it with that knee problem but he managed to get a good surgeon who helped him out. In my opinion he is still world class. He’s one you never like seeing on the team lines against you.”