Craig Gordon hungry to lift trophies as Hearts captain as he reveals thoughts on Scotland retirement
Craig Gordon is entitled to relish the second coming of the Hearts captain’s armband. He is older, more mature and ambitious to lead the club's Premiership return.
Crucially, he takes command of a far more settled dressing room than last time he was skipper. Gordon replaced Steven Pressley as captain in November 2006 during his first spell at Hearts – a tumultuous period when Lithuanian players were arriving by the planeload and managers changed every couple of months under then-owner Vladimir Romanov.
The goalkeeper joined Sunderland in a record-breaking £9million deal in August 2007 and finally returned to his formative club from Celtic last summer. Now he finds himself handed the armband once again following Steven Naismith’s retirement. It is a new, more peaceful era but there is a similar sense of pride.
Gordon, a Hearts fans since childhood, enjoyed his first stint as captain and fully intends thriving on the responsibility again. He starts today against Peterhead in the first round of Premier Sports Cup group matches.
“I think it does feel different. I was driven by my own wants and needs to improve and get to a higher level, that was my big driving force at that point,” explained the 38-year-old. “Now I’m a lot older, I've come back here and hopefully I can help the guys around about me and add a few things to the club from my experience that will help us improve.
“It was a turbulent period [last time] but you get asked to do that and you don’t turn it down, it was an incredible honour for me.
“Everyone knows what the club means to me, I supported Hearts as a boy and to play for the team just once, never mind the amount of times I have, and to captain it as much as I have, not many people get that chance. So it’s an incredible honour to do that this season and I am looking forward to it.
“I was captain for a little while before so it’s great to come full circle. I’m a lot older – I’m not sure if I’m a lot wiser – but hopefully I can help some of the young guys coming through.
“It’s great to have that at this stage of my career and be able to pass things on to make sure we’re improving individuals and the club as a whole.”
Trophies are nothing new to him. Five Scottish Premiership titles, five League Cups and three Scottish Cups top a list of honours which is the envy of many footballers. However, Gordon has never lifted silverware as a captain.
“That’s what everybody dreams of, isn’t it? You start out playing football, you get to a professional level and most of the guys want to win something once. I have been very lucky in my career to lift trophies, but not as a captain.
“So this would be the best way to, not finish my career because I have a few years left, but cap it all by being the guy who goes up those steps to lift the trophy would undoubtedly be the highlight of my career. It gives me something to strive for.”
Hearts’ lifted the Championship trophy in April and now want to follow that up with a national cup triumph. “Hearts are a big club and they should be pushing for that every single year. We’re realistic, we know it is not going to happen every single year,” said Gordon.
“In the last couple of years we have been getting to semis and finals. If you do that on a regular basis, you give yourself a chance of lifting a trophy.
“If we can be consistent with our performances and get a little bit of luck in the draw we can go and win a trophy – or two, like St Johnstone managed to do. Maybe that’s being a bit greedy but if we can be there or thereabouts we will give ourselves a chance.”
No retirement plan
Consistent performances of his own will be key to retaining a place in the Scotland squad for September’s World Cup qualifiers. Gordon will be approaching 40 come the finals in Qatar and confirmed he has no intention of retiring yet.
“I need to play well and make sure my levels are good at Hearts and then I will give myself that opportunity. But yeah, I will certainly be available at least until then and who knows after that, if I still feel good? I’ll just take it a year at a time, but I have no plans to retire from international football at all.”
His appetite seems only to have been whetted by the European Championship. Gordon sat on the bench for Scotland’s three group games last month, with David Marshall the first-choice goalkeeper.
“I did enjoy being there. It was a good camp, the boys really fought and tried hard for each other and we ultimately came up a little bit short,” he recalled of Hampden Park defeats to Czech Republic and Croatia, plus a 0-0 draw with England at Wembley.
“I think we can continue improving, we have a really good base there and some really good footballers. “The training sessions were excellent, the standard was really good, and very enjoyable to take part in.
“To go and work in that environment every day was a great level to play and train at. It was enjoyable from that point of view, it was just unfortunate we didn’t manage to get our noses in front in a game, we always seemed to be chasing a little bit. And when you have only got three games it is difficult.
“We have to learn from that, we have a difficult [World Cup] group coming up, you see some of the other teams doing well at the Euros. So we know we are in for a massive challenge to get one of those spots.”