Craig Gordon has set his sights on overhauling Alan Rough in Scotland’s all-time caps list as he looks to extend his return to being the country’s number one goalkeeper.
The 34-year-old was formally welcomed to Scottish international football’s ‘50 club’ this week when he received a commemorative gold medal in recognition of the feat which he achieved when he played in last month’s win over Slovakia at Hampden.
Aberdeen and Scotland legend Willie Miller, one of the other 30 players who have reached or surpassed the 50-cap milestone in the 145-year history of the national team, made the presentation to Gordon before Thursday night’s friendly defeat against Netherlands at Pittodrie.
Now on the 52-cap mark, Gordon is closing in on former Partick Thistle and Hibs keeper Rough who made 53 appearances for his country.
“It was an honour to reach 50 caps for my country as not many people do it,” reflected Gordon.
“I’m only the third goalkeeper to do it. I’m only one behind Alan Rough now, so I’m gunning for him. I have two more to get second place on my own in terms of Scotland keepers, although I’m still along way behind Jim Leighton’s 91 caps.
“I didn’t know the presentation was happening this week. I knew at some point I would get the medal for reaching 50 caps. It was nice to get that from Willie, especially in Aberdeen. He made a little speech and it was an absolute honour to receive it from someone like him.”
After the disappointing end to the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, Gordon saw encouraging signs in the performance against the Dutch as Scotland look ahead to trying to reach the 2020 European Championship finals.
He was especially impressed by the contributions of two of his Celtic club mates – Kieran Tierney, who played out of position in central defence and captained his country at the age of 20, and midfielder Callum McGregor who enjoyed a good debut.
“I was looking across the squad beforehand and going through the potential captains in my head and Kieran was one of the top ones on my list,” added Gordon.
“He has done it at Celtic and I’m sure there will be a lot more occasions when he is captain of his club and his country. He has always had the potential to be a captain. He is a leader, he leads by example and he is good in the changing room as well. He has such a strong character.
“I don’t really know what his best position is because he can do anything. I want to give him a shot of the gloves and see if he can do that as well!
“I’m sure he could because every position he plays he does exceptionally well. He is just a terrific footballer. He is good enough to go and play in midfield as well. It doesn’t matter where he is asked to play. He always gives everything he’s got.
“I think we did well and had some good passages of play in the game. We created a number of chances against a team of Holland’s quality. We had a game plan and a lot of it was carried out. We got chances from what we had tried to do during the week. From that point of view it was quite successful.
“In the forward areas we went at them and caused them a few problems. There were good performances all round although I know from Celtic how good Callum can be.
“He can pull the strings with both his passing and his finishing. He was always going to be a good player to come into this squad. He is one of the fittest guys in our team so he covers the ground as well. Defensively that is always going to help. Right across the pitch it was an energetic performance.
“The big disappointment was obviously losing the goal the way we did. The quality of the move and the finish was the difference between the teams.
“We were set up to sit in and break on them rather than the other way about. When we have given the ball away, it is a long way from our goal. It was on their 18-yard line. They broke with numbers and we didn’t manage to stop it. I looked across thinking it was offside but the linesman’s flag stayed down.”
There was frustration at the other end of the pitch for Scotland’s stand-in striker for the night, West Bromwich Albion winger Matt Phillips. But despite the chances he missed to open his scoring account in dark blue, Phillips remained upbeat.
“I thoroughly enjoyed playing that role,” he said. “The boys put some good balls through for me. Obviously there are times when I can do better with my back to goal, but I enjoyed the experience.
“I don’t know what will happen with it in the future. As I’ve said before, I’m just delighted to be in the reckoning and I was delighted to start.
“I feel I had two good opportunities myself – ones that I would take on another day. But I will take the positives that I got myself into the right positions. A couple of years ago, I might have got my head down about it and let it bother me. But I look upon it as a positive that I played a different role and managed to get a couple of opportunities.”