Robbie Neilson on Hearts captain Craig Gordon's standing among Scotland's greatest keepers and his player of the year prospects

Robbie Neilson reckons Craig Gordon should be player of the year in Scotland this season after another outstanding save from the Scotland goalkeeper helped Hearts book a place in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden.

Saturday, 16th April 2022, 4:02 pm
Updated Sunday, 17th April 2022, 1:14 pm

The Hearts skipper’s fingertip stop to tip a powerful Ryan Porteous header onto the post and back into his gloves early in the second half was pivotal moment in a thrilling Scottish Cup semi-final, as Hibs pushed forward after trailing 2-1 at the break.

Stunning first-half goals from man-of-the-match Ellis Simms and Stephen Kingsley. put Hearts in the driving seat before Chris Cadden pulled one back, and Gordon’s wonder stop was a pivotal moment.

Even when Joe Newell was sent off for a lunge on Peter Haring, Hearts were hanging on until the end as the ten men of Hibs continued to press.

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Craig Gordon and manager Robbie Neilson embrace at full time

Gordon’s outstanding stop was just the latest in a string of big saves the veteran keeper has pulled off at big moments for Hearts this season.

Neilson said: “Craig has been outstanding. I’d expect him to be in the running for player of the year. In my opinion he should win it because he’s done it week in week out.

“A number of players have performed sporadically through the season, but every week he’s pulled off saves for us and it has helped us massively as a team.

“The save was crucial. It’s big names for big games, that’s what Craig does. He steps up to the plate when we need him. Not just on the pitch but off it. He’s a quiet guy but he leads by example in the group. Because of his experience it helps the younger players.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson celebrates at full time during the Scottish Cup semi-final

He added: “Craig has been outstanding. I'd be amazed if he's not the Football Writers' player of the year and PFA player of the year because he's done it every single week.

“There's been guys for the Old Firm and other teams who have done it sporadically through the season, but every single week he's producing world-class saves.

“It allows us to be more expansive because, if someone goes through, then the majority of times Craig Gordon will save it. It's going to take something special to get by him.”

Asked where 39-year-old Gordon ranks among the great Scotland goalkeepers, Neilson insisted he can compete with the very best.

Craig Gordon makes another big save for Hearts at Hampden

“You've got The Goalie [Andy Goram] who I played with myself. Then there’s Jim Leighton, and that's probably it. He's right up in those echelons. He's getting better and better and I am pretty sure he will play for Scotland in the summer as well.

“I played with him 20 years ago with and he's matured massively. He takes sessions with the players, he's a quiet guy but he leads by example. Someone said that was his 15th semi-final.

“He's got the t-shirt and was talking to the players last night about what it's like to get the bus in with the fans on the streets, what to do in the tunnel, the dressing-room and when we come out, what happens if we lose or score a goal. That’s priceless for the younger ones.

“It just shows what belief and looking after yourself can do. He's continued to play at the highest level.”

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