Despite Craig Gordon being among a trio of shot-stoppers who cost him international caps and win bonuses, goalkeeping rival Kenny Arthur is delighted that the Celtic goalkeeper is in line to make his first Scotland appearance in four years tomorrow night.
Gordon is expected to replace David Marshall between the sticks against England and Arthur reckons that the duo, when joined by a fit-again Allan McGregor, give the national side a terrific trio of No 1s to choose from.
Arthur, who now spends his time working as the goalkeeping coach with championship side Queen of the South and running his own goalkeeping glove business, said: “Scotland certainly has strength in depth in world-class goalkeepers and I have not even mentioned Matt Gilks who I do not know as well.
“The three I know all came through a few years after me at Hearts, Celtic and Rangers and when I was with Partick Thistle I had the pleasure of playing against them.
“Pleasure is perhaps not the right word as I am sure that the three of them cost me a go involvement with Scotland.
“However, I have always appreciated goalkeeping talent and these boys are talented.”
Arthur added: “I was going to say that Scotland are probably in their best place ever for goalkeepers. However, that is probably not totally true.
“I was brought up in the Jim Leighton and Andy Goram days and there was Alan Rough before that. All three were world-class goalkeepers, but what we have now is more strength in depth.”
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The 35-year-old started his career at Partick and he also played for Rochdale, Accrington Stanley, Grimsby and Airdrie before spending last season at Annan Athletic, but he can add Scotland to the list of teams he played for.
Arthur explained: “I got one B cap in the Berti Vogts era which I feel very fortunate to have received. I am proud to have sneaked into a few full squads as well. Being with the national team was always an honour even if I was fourth pick and there because someone was injured.”
“You get to travel and play against elite teams and that is a completely different experience to playing in Scotland.”
Arthur would be drafted into the senior squad if Neil Alexander, Rab Douglas or Jonathan Gould were injured, but he was never selected for a cap. “I was on the bench in Lithuania and Iceland for European qualifiers as the full squad was stripped,” said Arthur, before adding: “I never really had a chance of going on unless something catastrophic happened, but I would prepare like I was playing and, of course, hearing the national anthems was always a special moment.”
When Douglas’s international career ended in 2005, Gordon was ready to pick up the mantle and Arthur never returned to squads. Marshall and McGregor moved above him in the pecking order. Said Arthur: “I maybe never got further than the warm-up and preparation. However, it was great to be involved.”
Arthur, asked what the succession would be after Gordon, Marshall and McGregor, added: “At under-21s, you have Jack Hamilton at Hearts who played against Hibs earlier in the season. He is viewed as a fantastic talent and at Rangers you have Liam Kelly and Robbie McCrorie and Celtic have strength at a youth level as well. There is another good crop coming through.”
After making his own professional debut at just 18, Arthur is keen for the young shot- stoppers to play.
He explained: “I would encourage young goalkeepers to get as much game time as possible to really develop. When the three guys we have just now call it a day there needs to be ready-made replacements waiting.
“I was 18 when I started at a first-team level and I got my chance because Thistle ran out of money. I started playing around the time of the ‘Save the Jags’ campaign when the club could not pay for the loan players that were there and they all got sent back.
“I got my chance and that cloud proved to be a silver lining for me.”
While Arthur announced his playing retirement when he left Annan, he recently signed a short-term deal with Queen of the South, but a return to action is not sought desperately.
He added: “Our back-up goalkeeper, Jim Atkinson, had a short-term injury but our regular No 1, Zander Clark, was in good form so, rather than sign someone else who wouldn’t play, I agreed to help out against Livingston.”
“I was delighted, however, when our three substitutes went on. I am a goalkeeper coach now as well as having the goalkeeping glove company, so my playing days are behind me.
“I am happy to join in training but I am a stone away from being reliable enough to play every week.”
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