Twin targets driving Hearts keeper Craig Gordon as he explains those instinctive saves

Instinctive reactions have helped Craig Gordon carve out a long and illustrious football career. They might still enable him to achieve two outstanding ambitions.
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He wants to raise the Scottish Cup as Hearts captain next month and play for Scotland at the World Cup in Qatar. Only a fool would bet against him doing both, even at 39.

Often compared with legendary predecessors like Andy Goram and Jim Leighton, Gordon is eager to replicate their achievements by taking part in a major international tournament. All in good time.

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“I’d like to lift the Scottish Cup as a captain before I do that. If I can do both that would be quite a nice thing,” he said. “Those guys went on into their 40s as well. You won't get a bigger compliment than that in this country given how great those guys were and how long their careers went on. It's the biggest compliment I could have.”

Nominated for PFA Scotland Player of the Year as a season peppered with some outrageous saves draws to a close, Gordon struggles to explain those stops that seem to defy logic.

His goalkeeping is a major reason Hearts have secured third place in the Premiership, qualified for Europe and can anticipate a cup final against Rangers.

Yet, when confronted by an opponent’s shot, even at point-blank range, Gordon isn’t entirely sure how he manages to pull off the saves that are now his trademark. Think Ross Callachan at Ross County or the triple stop at Livingston. Or, indeed, many others each week.

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“I don't know, it just happens,” he said. “There isn't much thinking that goes into it, it's just reactive. That has always been a big part of my game. It's probably the part of goalkeeping I've always enjoyed the most.

Craig Gordon still has plenty motivation with Hearts and Scotland.Craig Gordon still has plenty motivation with Hearts and Scotland.
Craig Gordon still has plenty motivation with Hearts and Scotland.

“It's always been a particular strength of mine and hopefully I can keep it going a while longer. It's something that seemed to come naturally to me, the sharp reaction stuff.

“This season has probably showcased it more than others. I've had a lot of saves to make and I have to thank my team for that. They win the games and that makes it worth it. If you're losing every week, the saves aren't going to get noticed.

“If I've made a save and we've won the game then that's testament to my team. The guys in front of me have made it worthwhile and made it a turning point in the match. It's great knowing they are capable of that.”

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Advances in technology mean Gordon is confident of playing into his 40s. The drive to follow in the footsteps of people like Gilles Rousset, Antti Niemi and Henry Smith is still strong.

“All of those guys were heroes of mine and guys that I looked up to. I wanted to do the things that they were doing,” said Gordon.

“To be able to go and have the career I’ve had, to hopefully now be inspiring other goalkeepers coming through now – that for me was something I always wanted to do.

“I’ll look back at the end of it and see what I’ve managed to achieve but those guys were huge for me growing up. So to now be talked about in the same conversation is pretty special.”