NEW CELTIC goalkeeper Craig Gordon says he never really came close to joining Old Firm rivals Rangers – despite the huge part the Ibrox club played in his recovery from injury.
“They talked about [an offer] a little bit but that’s done now,” said the 31-year-old former Hearts and Sunderland stopper, who flew out to Austria to join up with Celtic’s pre-season training camp after penning a two-year deal with the Parkhead club yesterday.
“There is a lot of things going on at Rangers and I don’t think that I was high on their priority list. They offered me training facilities. I was grateful for that.
“I worked with their physios and they are great people. They have got me back to this point.”
The move to Celtic – who enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 win over Russian side FK Krasnodar in Austria in Ronny Deila’s first game in charge yesterday – ends a nightmare two-year stint since leaving the Stadium of Light in May 2012 for Gordon, whose last competitive match was a 2-2 draw with Bolton a month before he was released by the Black Cats.
Since then, a devastating run of arm and knee injuries left him wondering if he would ever play again.
But he was finally able to start back on the road to recovery last year with the help of Rangers and their medical team.
“It’s slightly ironic, I know, for me to end up [at Celtic], but for me it’s a great opportunity to get back playing at a club playing at the highest level and fighting to get into the Champions League.
“This is by far the biggest club I have ever played for.”
Gordon’s performances with Hearts – including a Scottish Cup winner’s medal in 2006 – earned him a £9 million move to Sunderland in 2007, then a British record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.
A knee injury sidelined him for three months in the 2008-09 campaign and the following season a broken arm forced him to miss a further 12 weeks.
Simon Mignolet displaced the Scot as number one at the Stadium of Light ahead of the 2010-11 campaign and further knee problems over the next two seasons meant he would never consistently regain his place.
He now has a battle on his hands to wrest the Celtic goalkeeper’s jersey from Fraser Forster’s grip, but 40-times capped Gordon is just delighted to have joined the club.
“I want to play as many games as I possibly can,” he said. “I have not been told anything (about whether I will be first or second choice) and I’ve not asked anything.
“For me to be here at all is an achievement. It’s a fantastic club to be joining after the injury nightmare I have had. I’m grateful to have this opportunity and I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to play as many games as I can.
“I came close to the point where I thought I might never play again. “
Gordon’s injury troubles have also allowed Hull City’s Allan McGregor to cement his place as Scotland’s number one, but Gordon has not given up hope of reclaiming his place in the national side. He added: “I have never hidden the fact I would love to get back playing for Scotland again but we will see. I need to get back playing and stay fit before I get back in. But that is an aim.”