Craig Gordon reveals list of personal targets with Hearts and Scotland
Craig Gordon’s season began with a list of targets which have been ticked off one by one.
From a Scotland recall to helping Hearts back into the Premiership, the goalkeeper enjoyed an outstanding campaign after rejoining his formative club from Celtic. It is far from over, though.
Hearts play their final league game on Friday night at Raith Rovers, but Gordon will then continue preparations for the European Championship commencing in June. He has waited 38 years to represent his country in a major finals and intends to be in optimum condition.
He set out with a fairly lengthy catalogue of aims last summer and managed to blitz every one of them. The Scottish Championship winner’s medal dangling from his neck at the weekend was high on the list, although playing for Scotland at the Euros would be the career pinnacle.
“I had a few goals this season and I’ve managed to tick most of them off, but from the club’s point of view it was just so important to get back up at the first time of asking and we’ve done that,” said Gordon.
“I wanted to get back in the Scotland squad, to play for Scotland, to win the league here, to be the best goalkeeper in the league, to keep the most clean sheets.
“You start the season with all these targets, all the things you’d expect a keeper to want, but it’s then all about getting out there and putting the work in on the training pitch to make it happen.
Big summer to come
“Next season’s list? I haven’t decided yet what I want to happen then. Give me a bit of time to get this one over with first! And anyway, there’s still a big summer to come.
“Right now it’s about getting myself in the best possible shape for the Euros and then we’ll see what happens. I know I’ve given myself the best possible chance to get the opportunity if called upon.
“That’s the plan for the next month or so, to be as fit as I can for when we head off to our training camp and to be ready if I’m needed.”
Gordon admits he “didn’t expect to be as busy” with Hearts in Scotland’s second tier. Being so active at club level helped his quest for international recognition. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that Saturday’s 3-0 win against Inverness was the keeper’s seventh consecutive clean sheet for both club and country.
His form is excellent and he is eager for Scotland to do themselves justice this summer. In their first major tournament since 1998, they find themselves in Group D alongside Czech Republic, England and Croatia.
“We have waited so long so why not go and give it a go? It would be nice to qualify from our group and be the first Scotland team to do that,” said Gordon. “Yes, we have not qualified for so long but let’s go there with a bit of confidence and try and do something that no other Scottish team has done before.
“We know it will be difficult but that is definitely the aim, to get through the group. We know we are outsiders but we do have a confidence in our ability as a squad. There’s a togetherness about us too so you never know what can happen.”
Probably in tandem with every Scottish footballer, Gordon feared he would never grace a major tournament. “Yes, of course. You go into every campaign trying to make it happen and it’s been difficult. It’s been a long time since we last qualified for a major finals.
“We have to enjoy it but at the same time we want to do well. We have good players and a good spirit in the group. That puts us in a good position to go and compete. We will give it everything we have got and see what we can do.”
Ousting Marshall for No.1 spot
He makes no secret of his desire to oust David Marshall to become Scotland’s No.1 in time for the opening game against the Czechs on June 14. “That’s up to the manager. I’m just going to get myself as fit as possible and show as well as I can in training. Whoever the manager picks, we will support each other no matter what.
“We always have done. We’ve remained friends right through our career and I’ll message David and ask if he wants to meet up and do a bit of training in the downtime in between [matches].
“We will get together and do our goalkeeping workouts this month and make sure both of us are as ready as we can be. It’s not about individuals, it’s about Scotland and preparing as well as we can to be as good as we can be – and try to get some good results there.”
“I’ve spoken to Paul Gallacher [Hearts goalkeeper coach] and he’s going to take a few sessions during the week. The Scotland guys have been great too. The sports scientists have been on the phone, getting plans together for us to use the gym facilities.
“We have a good plan to keep us going over the next few weeks. It’s going to keep us very fit and ready to go. I’m looking forward to it.”
National coach Steve Clarke decided to base his side at Middlesbrough’s Rockliffe Park training ground during the Euros. “It’s fine. I’ve been there before when I was at Sunderland. It’s an incredible facility so there’s no problem from that point of view,” explained Gordon.
“I think it will be quite good to keep ourselves to ourselves and make sure we are preparing in the best possible way. The Czechs are at Oriam where we would normally be but it’s a good place for us to have our camp. I’m looking forward to it and we will give it your best shot.”