CRAIG GORDON realised, as far back as 13 May, 2006 that Robbie Neilson possessed the right stuff for management.
The full-back was a hero in the Hearts team which won the Scottish Cup at Hampden that day but it was the nerveless manner he displayed in scoring during the penalty shoot-out which convinced the Scotland goalkeeper that Neilson was a leader of men.
Gordon has not been surprised by the progress his ex-team-mate has made since replacing Gary Locke at the end of last season.
“Robbie had a great mentality as a player and he was always calm,” said the 31-year-old. “Nothing ever fazed him.
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“I was watching the programme about Gretna during the week and nobody expected Robbie to step up and take a penalty. Everybody in our dressing room knew he would score, though, as he had the mentality to step up and cope with the greatest of pressure and score.
“Robbie has had a great start to his managerial career but, hopefully, Celtic can win the game and Hearts can concentrate on winning the Championship.”
It will be Gordon’s first return to his old stamping ground since he starred in a 2-0 victory over Hibernian in May, 2007, prior to his £9 million move to Sunderland.
“It will be good to get back out there but I want to be as professional as possible and win the game regardless of the opposition,” he said. “Still, I’ll need to remind myself what end I have to go to when I come out of the tunnel. I never really got the chance to say goodbye to the Hearts supporters as I left before the first game of the season in 2007.
“This will be a good occasion but I want to be on the winning side. It will be good to go back as there are a lot of people I know behind the scenes.
“I hope to get a good reception. I don’t know how the Hearts fans will respond to me but it won’t change my mind on the club and the fans and the time I had there.
“They can do what they like as I am happy with the way things have turned out for me. Hopefully, they will be kind but if they are not then it won’t bother me.”
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