When he wins his 47th cap for Scotland this evening, Craig Gordon could come face to face once more with a man who played a significant part in preventing him making many more appearances for his country.
While the goalkeeper insists he has moved on from the bitterness he felt towards Jermain Defoe back in 2009, you sense there will be little enthusiasm in any pre-match handshake he has to make with the England striker at Hampden.
Defoe was severely criticised by most observers when, playing for Tottenham against Sunderland eight years ago, his late and needless kick inflicted a broken arm on Gordon. The injury required surgery, initially sidelining Gordon for three months. It cost him his place in the Scotland team at the time and was the start of a troubled period with injuries which almost saw him hang up his gloves for good.
Now revitalised and back at peak form with Celtic, the 34-year-old still cannot fully escape constant reminders of the damage Defoe did at a crucial stage of his career.
“When something as bad as that happens to you in your career and because of the problems I had afterwards re-breaking it – I’ve still got the metal work in there from the three operations I needed to fix it – then it’s obviously going to stick with you a bit,” said Gordon.
“It still hurts at times, it can do. But I won’t be thinking about it during the game. Let’s just hope he [Defoe] doesn’t score. You could definitely say there’s a bit of history there. I wasn’t pleased with the challenge. It was a long time ago and these things happen in football. There is no way it will have any bearing on this match.
“I went out to dive at his feet. It was a challenge where he kicked my arm – and broke it. I’ll let you watch it back and judge for yourselves. He tried to make contact with me after the game – but I wasn’t interested in speaking to him. He did try, to be fair to him.
“It had a lot of impact on the progress I was making in my career at that time. I missed three months, came back and played a few games, then they tried to take the metal plate back out. I broke my arm again, missed another three or four months. That’s a good chunk of a season to miss. By the time I played my way back into good form, it took a lot out of me.
“I had been picked for the Scotland squad for a game a few days after the incident, so I had to phone from the hospital to tell them I wouldn’t be meeting up with the team for the game. It probably did cost me a few caps. But if it wasn’t for that, injuries do happen. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. There are other challenges that I’ve made that could have hurt people. It’s just part of the game. You move on. I won’t be thinking about that at any point on Saturday.”
Gordon is under no illusions as to the size of his task in trying to keep a clean sheet against a potent England strikeforce likely to be spearheaded by in-form Tottenham man Harry Kane.
“There is strength in depth in that area for England,” he added. “They have a number of players to call upon and, whoever it is, they are a good attacking unit and not just their strikers, they’re good at their set plays too so we will have to watch a number of things if we are to keep them out. Kane is very good. One of the top goalscorers in England and probably one of the best of his type of forward where he can hold the ball up and he’s also good in the air, he chases people down and scores goals. Really, for the modern game, he has everything you’d want from a striker and he’s one we have to pay special attention to.”
Gordon, though, is out to end a historic season at club level with an equally momentous victory for Scotland. Having been part of Celtic’s ‘Invincibles’ squad in the 50th anniversary of the Lisbon Lions, he also wants to emulate Scotland’s famous win over England from that same glorious summer of 1967.
“That has been mentioned by the Celtic boys,” he said. “I know Ronnie Simpson, the Celtic goalkeeper then, played for Scotland in that game. If we can replicate that, it would be a nice way to finish.”