Craig Gordon would be entitled to puff out his chest at becoming the oldest player in modern-day Celtic history to be deemed worthy of a three-year contract. Instead, the 34-year-old is set to put his back into ensuring the new deal he has signed will be replaced with another before the newly inked one expires in the summer of 2020.
Professional and personal advancements have convinced the Scotland international that he can follow a number of goalkeeping luminaries in playing at the highest level even as their 30s come to a close.
“It’s a good length of contract for someone my age but I believe I can still go on and get another one after that,” Gordon said yesterday. “I can play for a few more years beyond the current contract. [For how long?] I will tell you in five or six years.
“[Gianluigi] Buffon has shown you can play for a long time as a keeper. Mark Schwarzer was also playing in the Champions League for Chelsea at 41. Brad Friedel and Edwin van der Sar both played for a long time. Buffon is a couple of years older than me but he will go on until he’s 40. Hopefully I can do that as well.
“It’s doable. We have good facilities at Celtic that are getting better all the time. We have the sports science staff who look after you really well and that side of things is fantastic here. We have the opportunity to look after our bodies better than before and push those boundaries back. In the next little while, all the improvements in that side will show as players will be able to play for even longer.”
The never-ending twists and turns of a football career are brought sharply into focus by Gordon’s contract denouement. It creates the prospect of the former Hearts man spending six seasons with a club he didn’t know he would be able to play for at all when he took “a bit of a leap of faith” to see if he “could still cope with this level of football” after two years sidelined with injuries that seemed set to finish his career..
When dropped by Brendan Rodgers for five games early in the season, it looked then that he could be finished with the new regime. Gordon admits his Celtic career could then have gone either way. The same could be said over Chelsea’s pursuit of him that resulted in a £3.5 million bid late in the January transfer window that brought predictions he would move to the English Premier League leaders.
The fact is he might well have done so, had he been allowed to talk to the Stamford Bridge club. He delicately avoided saying as much explicitly yesterday, but that could clearly be inferred from how he picked his words in reviewing the situation.
Did he ever envisage leaving, Gordon was asked. “Not really because I knew early on that the bids weren’t accepted and the manager or club weren’t going to accept it. At the same time, you never know right up until the deadline whether there is a point where it’s an option for the club and they wanted the money.
“That would have changed the situation but it didn’t. There was a great deal for me to do. I could have made a big fuss about it and players have done that by coming out publicly to force it through. But I am not that type of person. Irrespective of that, the club wanted to keep me and I was happy to stay.”
Rodgers laid it on the line that only a silly offer would see the club consider parting with a man he called a Champions League figure. That did not arrive. The Celtic manager made plain the importance of Gordon to his way of working in the keeper developing his passing from the back meant he was determined to hold on to him and “sort” him out in upping both his terms and the period the club committed to him.
All of this has come to pass. Gordon is believed to have enjoyed a 70 per cent wage increase covering the next three years, which Rodgers’ personal input is understood to have ensured was extended from the two years the club favoured.
“The manager has been brilliant the whole time. He’s talked to me lots of times and is really good at talking to players and making sure everyone is all right. His door is always open if you want to speak to him. At one point, I think I was in his office every other day, talking about something or other. But he was great throughout the whole lot and even the negotiating of the contract, he helped out and made sure everything went smoothly.”