As a player instinctively eager to get on the front foot and make something happen, James McFadden didn’t spend a lot of time looking behind him during his Scotland career.
But whenever he did glance over his shoulder and saw Craig Gordon between the posts, McFadden always felt his team was in the safest possible hands.
So it has come as a surprise to McFadden that his former international team-mate suddenly finds his position as Celtic’s first choice goalkeeper under serious threat after being dropped by Brendan Rodgers for Saturday’s 4-1 win over Aberdeen as Dorus de Vries made his debut for the Scottish champions.
De Vries, who excelled for Rodgers at Swansea City, is regarded by the Celtic manager as more capable with the ball at his feet in a system which demands a passing game in every area of the pitch.
McFadden has expressed his bemusement at that line of thought and believes the recruitment of De Vries was an unnecessary move by Rodgers.
“For me, goalkeepers are goalkeepers,” said McFadden. “I don’t want them to do a million keepy-uppies, I want them to save shots. I want them to catch the ball as well, I hate seeing them punch the ball.
“I want my goalkeeper to save shots and keep you in the game. If he’s good with his feet, then excellent – but that’s not the main criterion for me.
“Craig saves shots he shouldn’t have a chance of saving. For me, he’s also great with the ball at his feet. It’s something he’s improved on over the years, so I don’t think De Vries has come in because he’s better with his feet. Craig’s very good at that and he’s still a top goalkeeper.
“I’m surprised by what has happened to him at Celtic. It’s a wee bit like what Pep Guardiola has done at Manchester City with Joe Hart. I think he [Rodgers, pictured right] just had his mind made up he was going to bring someone in.
“I don’t think it was needed but I’m not going to tell Brendan Rodgers how to do his job. He’s started well and I’m just talking about Craig Gordon and the way I know him. He’ll fight for his place in the team and hopefully he’ll win it back.
“I would back him to do that. Obviously it’s a difficult situation for him right now, where the manager has brought in his own player.
“But Craig will be up for the challenge and hopefully he comes through and wins his battle for the number one jersey.
“I’ve played with a lot of top goalkeepers in my career and he is definitely right up there. I do still see him as a number one for Scotland. With the goalkeepers Scotland have to choose from now, I don’t think you would be disappointed by whoever is picked.
“So Craig will still be challenging for that position. In some of the Scotland games I played, he made some magnificent saves.
“He has also done unbelievably well to come back from the injuries he had to rediscover the form he had when he was younger. He was out for the best part of two years and I think there were times when he was maybe told he’d not come back and play. He maybe even thought it himself.
“So everything he gets now, from the time he came back, he’ll be happy and a bit more relaxed. The pressure will be on him now but I think he’ll be happy with everything that’s happened so far.
“That will help him to stay strong mentally and to be ready for the fight. Celtic have got the Champions League coming up and that’s definitely a big thing for Craig.
“He has done all that hard work to get there and then suddenly he didn’t play at the weekend and there is a bit of doubt about it. That would have been a sickener for him.
“But he has got to back himself to get back in. I’m sure he will. Hopefully the best keeper at the time will play in the games and that will be Craig.”
Gordon is in the Scotland squad which begins its latest campaign with the opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Malta in Valletta on Sunday night.
McFadden has long since given up hope of adding to his 48 caps, the last of them won six years ago, but has come to terms with the way his Scotland career petered out.
“It has been a gradual thing,” said the 33-year-old Motherwell player-assistant manager. “I have hardly played football in the last wee while and there comes a point when you know you are not going to be playing for Scotland.
“I am happy with everything I have done in my career. I don’t have any regrets. It is what it is and I am happy. When I started out and somebody would have told me what I was going to do, I would have bitten their hand off for it. Every appearance, goal, every minute of playing for Scotland was a great experience. There was never any point where I thought I am not happy doing this.
“There are things I wish we could have done but it doesn’t keep me awake at night. Yes, we could have qualified for a tournament and it is a sore point we didn’t. We should have reached the Euro 2008 finals, the campaign when we beat France home and away, but we took our eye off the ball when we lost in Georgia and that cost us.
“But there is no point in harping back that we should have done this or that – because we didn’t make it.”
l James McFadden was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is a proud sponsor of the Scotland national team.