He has just played his 100th game for the club, been recalled to the Scotland team and looks set to secure a second league title medal. But Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon has admitted he is struggling to take the positives from a season that won’t now end with an appearance in the Scottish Cup final.
The goalkeeper’s milestone appearance did not quite go as hoped for Gordon, who was one of the few Celtic players to shine in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Rangers.
As well as denying Kenny Miller early in the game, Gordon saved one penalty and watched another sail over the bar from James Tavernier. But he could only look on in dismay as Tom Rogic’s penalty cleared the bar to condemn Celtic to a season in which, rather than secure the hoped-for treble, they can only claim the Premiership title – and not even that is certain.
“I don’t want to make any snap statements on the back of this defeat but we wanted more from this season,” accepted Gordon. “We set off at the start of the season looking for more trophies after a decent campaign.
“But I don’t think the performances have been as good throughout the season, for different reasons. We have come up short in a big semi-final and that’s the disappointing part.
“There is going to be pressure on all of us and criticism for everyone throughout the team, for everybody. We have to take it over the next wee while and bounce back as quickly as we can.
“We are hurting right now and we have to now finish the season strongly, and get the results we need. We wanted to win as much as possible this season. The league is the only one left so we have to go and get it wrapped up.”
Gordon admitted Celtic “did not start well enough” and allowed Rangers to take an early grip on Sunday’s game. He felt Celtic created enough chances to win the match so could not blame referee Craig Thomson, who overruled his assistant’s decision to award a throw-in to Celtic in the run-up to Rangers’ second goal, a stunning strike by Barrie McKay.
“The referee got involved in something when he couldn’t see it,” complained Gordon. “There were three players in front of him. The assistant made the correct decision and he overturned that.
“But we should have defended it better and it was a strike that, if he hit it another 100 times, he wouldn’t put it in there. After that, we came back again and could have possibly won it at the end.
“We had chances to win it at the end, we had chances in the first half and go in 1-1, even though we hadn’t played well. We didn’t take them and we paid the price.
“I asked the ref why he made the decision and he felt it was the right call. But when he can’t see it, I don’t know how he can,” he added.
“The fourth official is there too. It’s all on that side. There were two officials looking at it and the ref got that wrong. But that doesn’t lose us the game. We can’t get caught up in that. If we take our chances, it doesn’t become a talking point.
“I don’t want to lay the blame at his door when we were out there for 120 minutes. I’m not having a go there. We have to look at ourselves. We didn’t lose because of one throw-in decision. We are to blame, not the referee.”
Gordon also cast more light on the bizarre incident during the penalties in which he was spotted flinging opposite number Wes Foderingham’s water bottle away.
It almost struck a steward and seemed out of character for Gordon, who explained it was a mind games ploy he had learned from Rangers goalkeeper coach Jim Stewart while on Scotland duty.
Gordon explained it was a case of doing it to Foderingham before it was done to him. Cammy Bell, the Rangers reserve keeper, was sent to retrieve the bottle after Foderingham returned from facing a penalty to discover that it had disappeared from beneath his towel, with Gordon the culprit.
“What happened will stay between us,” he said. “Let’s just say I knew what their tricks would be before the shootout and I decided to counteract them.
“I have had Jim Stewart as a goalie coach before and I knew what was coming. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get an advantage.That’s all I was trying to do.
“I haven’t spoken to him [Stewart]. I don’t think he’ll be too happy but it doesn’t matter. They’ve won the match.
“If it was something that could have helped our players win, well that’s all I was trying to do.”