Video of the goalkeeper’s outstanding save from Kevin Nisbet’s header at Hampden Park in 2020 was widely circulated at the time. His reaction provided Hearts supporters with almost as much joy during a miserable Covid lockdown.
Nisbet’s effort from Martin Boyle’s cross was destined for Gordon’s net until his instinctive dive left produced a quite breathtaking stop. Yes, another one. The keeper sprung to his feet and saw Hibs players nearby with hands on heads in shock, much to his amusement.
His subsequent chuckle whilst strutting about the penalty area was captured in a GIF which went viral. It is still used repeatedly on social media whenever Hearts fans are happy.
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A new signing? Post big Craig's laughing GIF. Beat Hibs? Post big Craig’s laughing GIF. Another outrageous save? Post big Craig’s laughing GIF. It has become the standard reaction.
Gordon admits he isn’t an overly emotional footballer, he was simply caught in the moment. Hearts suffered an enforced relegation to the Championship but still managed to beat Premiership side Hibs to reach that year’s Scottish Cup final. Denying a rival forward a certain goal into the bargain captured Gordon’s sense of humour.
“It was the reaction of the Hibs players standing in the box. [Christian] Doidge was just looking at me after it,” says the 39-year-old. “I knew it was a good save so it was a good feeling to stand up and look at the disbelief on the strikers’ faces.
“That’s what we all become goalies for – that feeling of deny a striker a certain goal and witnessing the disappointment. That’s what you want as a goalkeeper. It’s a slightly different position because everybody wants to score goals. That’s what I was laughing at. It wasn’t anything too sinister.
“It’s very unusual. I don’t normally react like that. It was one of those things in the moment that I found amusing. I’m not known for too much emotion on the park, but at that moment I found it quite funny.”
Form this season suggests the re-established Scotland goalkeeper is perfectly capable of performing repeat heroics this time round. Another thrilling all-Edinburgh cup tie may be about to unfold as Hearts and Hibs look to secure a cup final place against Celtic or Rangers.
“Not too thrilling at my end, though. It can be thrilling up the other end or in the other game. That’s fine,” smiles Gordon. “If it takes extra-time and penalties, we have to be ready to do whatever it takes.
“The pitch at Hampden is bigger and there’s double the amount of fans. It’s still a derby with two teams wanting to win. There are a few differences but it’s Hearts v Hibs. No matter where we play them, whether it’s Hampden or out on the grass in front of nobody, we want to win the game.”
Giggles aside, the Scottish Cup has provided Gordon with memories to satisfy any sportsman. He first won the trophy with Hearts in 2006 following a nervy penalty shootout against Gretna. Add two further successes with Celtic in 2017 and 2018, and it is easy to understand why the goalkeeper cherishes this famous old competition.
“It’s a great tournament. Everybody wants to win the Scottish Cup, it has great traditions. Every club plays their strongest team in every round. Everybody is desperate to get to Hampden to win it. The prestige is huge. It would be great if I could manage to get to a final but we’re still a game away from that.”
Despite those achievements and a hatful of others throughout his career, Gordon has resisted the temptation to hang photographs around the family home in Edinburgh.
“No, not yet. Maybe once I finish playing,” he says. “At the moment it’s focusing on the next game, which happens to be Hibs in the semi-final. I don’t look back at all, I just look forward.”
Injury problems ten years ago threatened his career, so it is only natural he doesn’t want to delve too far into the memory bank. The story of his career rebuild at club and international level would do justice to any fairytale author.
He does recall attending the 2012 Scottish Cup final and witnessing the greatest moment in Hearts’ history. For an Edinburgh lad from a maroon-dyed family, it was a special afternoon.
“Yeah, I was there. I had just left Sunderland so I was in the stand that day. That was very emotional for every Hearts fan to win that final against Hibs in that fashion. It’s a fantastic achievement,” acknowledges Gordon.
“That whole team is going to be inducted into the Hearts Hall of Fame next month and rightly so for what they did for the club. It was a huge result and one everybody will remember forever. I’m delighted to see them get recognised for it.
“With my injury troubles at that time, I thought I wouldn’t even get on a football pitch never mind get back to any sort of level. But I got there. I had to go through that period and I don’t really think about it any more.”
One remaining ambition before Gordon retires is to lift silverware as Hearts captain. “To win any trophy for Hearts would incredible. We want to keep improving by consistently getting to semi-finals and finals and trying to win them.”