CELTIC goalkeeper Craig Gordon is targeting playing at the highest level of European football after returning to the peak of his own powers.
The 32-year-old was this week rewarded for his stunning comeback with a new three-year contract.
The former Hearts and Sunderland player’s career looked to be over after a knee injury restricted him to one game in more than three years.
But he defied the numerous sceptics by winning the Scottish Football Writers’ player of the year award after returning to football with Celtic last season.
However, this season could surpass that glory as he looks to compete in the Champions League and European Championship for the first time, with his club and country embroiled in qualifying campaigns.
The Scotland international said: “It’s something to strive for, to set myself to try and play in those types of games.
“But that’s up to myself and my performances and also the team, Celtic and the national team, to try to make those things a reality.
“There’s a lot of football to be played, but certainly those are things I would like to do. We will give it our best shot and hopefully I can put those things on my CV.”
The former £9million signing, who cost Sunderland that sum when joining from Hearts, added: “Perhaps the easiest part of it was to come out and try to prove people wrong - the extra motivation to perform week in, week out. Now I have got to a level I’m very happy with, I want to continue to improve and maintain the standards I have set for myself.
“When I came in, I knew what I wanted to do. This is how I wanted it to pan out, I don’t think anybody else perhaps believed it was possible.
“I didn’t know if it was possible but that was certainly the goal, to hit the ground running, to play as many games as I could, and do as well as I possibly could. Once you do that, you re-evaluate and set yourself the next set of goals.
“That’s part of the motivation for getting out there every week and trying to improve and play at the highest level I possibly can.
“The European Championship and the Champions League would be a fantastic thing to experience.
“There’s a lot of hard work needed to make that a reality but that’s why I get out of bed every morning, come through here and work as hard as I possibly can.”
Celtic kick off their Ladbrokes Premiership defence at home to Ross County on Saturday but their focus will then immediately switch to Azerbaijan for the second leg of their Champions League third qualifying-round tie next Wednesday.
Gordon kept a crucial clean sheet against Qarabag this week with Dedryck Boyata’s late winner giving them every chance of making the play-offs.
“Well, we kept a clean sheet, which was important,” Gordon said. “We will be looking to score an away goal, which could be important.
“But we are playing against a good team. They showed their qualities in parts of the game. They are technically very good and they kept possession very well for an away team.
“Going over there is going to be very difficult, we are going to have to play a smart game defensively. It’s a slender advantage so we have to look to score a goal. They have shown they could have the qualities to score against us so we have to pose them some problems as well.”