Craig Gordon sets out long-term plan for club and country as Hearts goalkeeper nears birthday milestone
Craig Gordon harbours no intentions of powering down his international career as the Hearts goalkeeper draws closer to his 40th birthday.
The Tynecastle favourite has once again been included in Steve Clarke’s squad for the upcoming trio of matches in the Nations League. Starting with Wednesday’s visit of Ukraine to Hampden Park, Gordon is expected to keep his spot as No.1 having started the last 12 encounters at international level.
Ireland visit the national stadium at the weekend before a trip to Poland to face Ukraine once more will round out the Scotland fixtures before this year. When they return in the spring for the European Championship qualifiers, Gordon will have reached his next milestone age.
Typically footballers don’t continue at such a level into their 40s and certainly not in the form Gordon has displayed for club and country these past couple of years. Players often decide to concentrate on one or the other, typically choosing club football, in order to prolong careers as they seek to protect their ageing bodies from further damage in a high-intensity spot.
Gordon admits he may have to make the tough choice one day, but unless his hand is forced he wants to do everything in his power to continue representing his nation. For someone who was absent from the national set up for four years due to injury, he more than most can appreciate how precious these opportunities are.
“Who knows? I don't know. It's one season at a time when you get to this stage,” the Hearts keeper said. “I wouldn't want to but there may come a time where that has to happen. But it certainly isn't something I would like to do. So I will keep going as long as I can and play as many games for Hearts and Scotland as I can.
“I just love it. I love playing for Scotland. It’s the highest level that you can play at, really, and every time I am fortunate enough to go out and play for Scotland is a huge honour for me. It motivates me to keep playing well for Hearts and to be able to be involved in the national team. I don’t want to give my place up easily.
“I’ve fought so hard over the years with different goalkeepers to earn as many caps as I have. I want to keep going and get as many as I can. As long as my body feels good and I’m still able to play I will try and continue to play.
“I don't know what a break is, what have a rest is. Since I came back into the international team it's been a lot of games, been very hectic, and even right over the summers. I don't see that changing, I will just go as long as I can.”
Gordon was involved at the weekend as Hearts made it two victories and two clean sheets in succession by following up the 2-0 Europa Conference League win over RFS with a 3-0 triumph at Motherwell.
While the final scoreline may have suggested a one-sided thumping for the away team, the reality was quite different. Stevie Hammell’s men missed a good few opportunities, including striking the woodwork three times (twice in the one attack) and being repelled by Gordon on a few other occasions.
"I really don’t know how Motherwell didn’t score against us,” admitted Gordon. “It was backs to the wall at times for us on Sunday. It’s always that little bit more difficult coming off the back of a European tie. We had to grind it out at Fir Park.
“But I was really pleased with how we dug in and the character we showed when we weren’t playing very well. We stayed in the game and we were dangerous on the counter. Motherwell played some very good football and they look a very good team so it was pleasing to get out of Fir Park with all three points and a clean sheet — even if I’m not quite sure how we managed it.
“We have the woodwork to thank because they struck it three times. When the ball went to [Paul] McGinn and he made contact with it, I thought it was going close to the post so I got back up in anticipation of a rebound. I managed to beat him to the loose ball. But it was fortunate it came back along the goal-line and to where I was.
"We rode our luck at times. We have to be honest about that. But we’ve seen the game out for a vital three points that takes us to third place and where we want to be.
“It’s really pleasing given the amount of European football we have played that we are in third place going into the break.”
Though the majority of people involved in the club would prefer if Hearts were able to dispatch of teams without some of the heart-in-mouth moments witnessed over the past two contests, Gordon does concede that struggles among his outfield team-mates does make for a more enjoyable afternoon – providing the team emerge victorious, of course.
Asked about winning ugly rather than winning comfortably, he replied: “I would prefer that! I wouldn’t get bored. I really wouldn’t. I’d be quite happy with that. There will be days we play better, for sure, and hopefully there are more of those performances than the games we grind out. But if we have to we know we can grind results out. We’ve got the togetherness in the squad to help us do that."