Hearts' situation should not hinder Craig Gordon's Euro 2020 chances, says Robbie Neilson
Robbie Neilson has insisted Craig Gordon’s chances of becoming Scotland No.1 for the European Championship should not be hindered by playing in the Championship this season.
The Hearts goalkeeper finished the campaign in top form as his club secured Premiership promotion, earning him a place in Steve Clarke’s squad for the Euros.
Gordon is vying with David Marshall, who dropped out of Derby County’s team in the season’s final weeks, to start Scotland’s opening Group D match against Czech Republic.
Marshall’s historic save in Belgrade last November confirmed the national team’s place at a first major tournament for 23 years, so Gordon faces a considerable task to oust him.
Neilson, the Hearts manager, is adamant that playing in the second tier of Scottish football should not count against the 38-year-old – who he described as “fit as a fiddle”.
“We are just delighted Craig is going to be part of it with Scotland. Hopefully he gets game time,” Neilson told the Evening News ahead of Scotland’s first pre-tournament friendly against the Netherlands on Wednesday.
“Two teams are promoted from the Championship for next season, ourselves and Dundee, so it's a pretty decent league. Inverness beat Ross County 3-1 a couple of months ago which shows the standard is decent. You look at how Dundee beat Kilmarnock in both legs of the play-off final to get into the Premiership.
“As a goalkeeper, your job is to save shots and keep the ball out of the net. Craig has proven once again that he's one of the best – if not the best – in the country.
“It's absolutely brilliant that he is in the squad and I'm delighted for him. He's got in there on merit and he's going into the Euros as the in-form keeper. He's been outstanding week in and week out for us. He has been in training with our group since the season finished so he's fit as a fiddle at the moment.”
Scotland’s third-choice goalkeeper is the former Hearts No.1 Jon McLaughlin. He has made only three appearances at club level with Rangers in 2021, so Clarke’s decision appears to be a straight choice between Gordon and Marshall.