CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has revealed talks are under way over a new longer term contract for Craig Gordon and has expressed his hope the goalkeeper will stay at the Parkhead club until he decides to hang up his gloves.
Gordon is enjoying a stunning renaissance of his career with the Scottish champions this season after being sidelined for two years with a serious knee injury which threatened to bring his playing days to a premature end.
The 32-year-old former Hearts and Sunderland keeper has been one of Celtic’s top performers so far this season and has now been linked with a return to the English Premier League with Chelsea as a possible replacement for Petr Cech.
Gordon signed a two-year deal, with the option for a third, with Celtic last summer. Deila has already outlined his wish to extend the player’s stay in discussions with the club’s chief executive Peter Lawwell.
“Craig is a great goalkeeper and he is a man we want to keep at the club,” said Deila. “We will do everything to keep him here. Myself and Peter have already talked about this. It’s also about what Craig wants and hopefully he wants to stay here and be a Celtic player.
“I can understand why other clubs are looking at him, because he has had a fantastic season for us. He performed great for us in the Europa League and without him, we wouldn’t have got through the group stage. He’s an important player for us at this level.
“I can’t put a price on him because I can’t sell him. I don’t want to. I want him here for the rest of his career and hopefully that can happen.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
Chelsea’s interest in Gordon is understood to be as a back-up for their new No 1 goalkeeper Thibault Courtois but Deila does not believe that would interest him.
“It would be a shame if he was a reserve anywhere but I don’t think he wants to do that,” added Deila. “He wants to play football until the end of his career and we want him to stay here. It’s a rumour just now and we will see what is in it. There will be clubs interested if he wants to go, but we want to keep him.”
Gordon’s rivals for the Scotland goalkeeper’s jersey, David Marshall and Allan McGregor, both ply their trade in English football.
“I haven’t really seen the other two so it’s hard for me to say if Craig should be Scotland’s No 1,” said Deila. “But I can say that if he is No 3, then Scotland have a lot of good goalkeepers. That’s a luxury of a problem.”
Gordon will go in search of his 20th clean sheet of the season tonight when Celtic take on St Johnstone at Parkhead in the Scottish Premiership fixture which was postponed to accommodate the Glasgow side’s winter break trip to Gran Canaria in January.
Confidence is high among Deila’s squad after Sunday’s 4-0 win over nearest challengers Aberdeen and another victory tonight would take them nine points clear at the top of the table with 11 matches left to play this season.
Deila has no fears about either the attitude or endurance of his players for the rest of the campaign and believes the powerful manner they finished the match on Sunday, so soon after their Europa League trip to Milan, was vindication of the change in coaching methods he has brought to the Scottish champions.
Eyebrows were raised earlier in the season when Deila declared that the squad he inherited from Neil Lennon needed to improve their fitness levels.
“The amount of metres and sprints the players did against Aberdeen was unbelievable when you know that they played three days before,” said Deila. “I was so pleased by the performance.
“The most important thing is that the players see, along with everyone else now, that what we are doing is effective. There are always things that we can do better and we have had some bad results but I think we have had six victories after coming home from European games. That’s really good. You don’t see that around the other European leagues. Inter Milan lost at the weekend and they are struggling a lot when they come back, so we did well to win in that way.
“We have increased the high intensity running in our team by 30 to 40 per cent since the summer. That is a lot.
“We want to be direct, we want to create things, we want to have penetration, we want to be a high pressing team, so you have to run and you have to run quick and you see that in the stats and in how we perform. Football is a running game, you have to run.
“Rodrigo Palacio, the Inter striker, ran for 1250 metres against us at Celtic Park at high intensity. That’s an incredible number. But at the weekend, Gary Mackay-Steven ran 1300 metres for us.
“It’s nice to get the numbers. We have the stats from Celtic’s previous Champions League campaigns before I came. We use them to see where we were and where we are now, along with the other teams we play against.
“You know you always have to add things. It’s like when someone asks you which manager you want to be like. I want to be me – but I can add something from him, him and him and make the best of the person I am.
“It’s the same for the team. We have a style of play and we can get things from different other teams.
“I got very inspired last Wednesday night, lying in my bed in our hotel in Milan, watching Bayer Leverkusen against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on TV.
“The intensity of Leverkusen was unbelievable. Their coach, Roger Schmidt, was previously coach of Red Bull Salzburg who also play with huge intensity. So I try to take something of the sprinting and high intensity they showed and put it into my team.”
Celtic will be without injured duo Emilio Izaguirre and Kris Commons tonight but both players are expected to be fit to return for Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Dundee United at Tannadice.