In his most recent autobiography, Roy Keane talked about Craig Gordon’s new team-mates being moved to applaud the keeper off the training pitch after his first session with Sunderland – something the Irishman say he had never before witnessed in his his illustrious career. Things didn’t always go so blindingly well for Keane and Gordon at the Stadium of Light, but that experience certainly brings a warm glow even now for the 33-year-old.
“I did have a good day,” said Gordon. “In my first training session I did do particularly well. When you go to a new club you want to put on a good show, particularly on your first day, so I was right up for training and had a good day. So [what was said in the book] is fairly accurate.”
Keane, pictured, would “absolutely” command respect from everybody, Gordon says, “for what he’s done as a player and as a manager”. Currently No 2 to Martin O’Neill for a Republic of Ireland side that will be engaged in the Euro 2016 finals until a couple of weeks before Celtic’s season gets underway, recruiting Keane might come with logistical issues. Not necessarily so, according to Gordon.
“Who knows? It’s not my position to tell anybody what to do in regard of when a manager should be appointed or whether it’s this month or after the Euros. If you’re going down that route and it’s Roy Keane, then that becomes a problem. If it’s not him or somebody else, maybe they could be in the job earlier than that. Maybe, I don’t know, he doesn’t even go to the Euros. There are so many things in there, it’s impossible to say. But I’m excited and ready for whoever that may be.”
Indeed, the fact that a new manager means ground zero for the players at an indeterminate point in the, admittedly near, future sees Gordon at odds with those that see such a handover as a recipe for instability and damaging uncertainty. Especially with such a major transformation at the head of the club’s football operation coming only a matter of weeks before the Champions League qualifiers that will shape the club’s entire campaign – and the prospects of the Celtic manager, as Ronny Deila discovered to his cost.
“I don’t think it will take too long,” said Gordon. “We’re looking forward to reporting back for training and finding out what the new manager wants from us, how he wants us to play. The flipside of the uncertainty is that it’s exciting. There will be a new style of play and there will be different roles for certain players and others, who have been angry or upset about being left out, will have a fresh start. Equally, the boys who have been playing regularly will now have to prove themselves all over again, so this can lift everybody.
“On the one hand, you might say that we’re in limbo but I think it’s the opposite of that – I believe we’ll all come back for the pre-season sessions really hungry. Then we can set our sights on the targets for the new campaign and push on from there.”
Gordon has expressed genuine regret that Celtic could not push on under Deila, the marked regression in the Norwegian’s second season leaving him with no option but to throw his hand in. Gordon doesn’t dispute that the loss of a shot at the treble that came with the 3-1 League Cup semi-final loss to Ross County in February can be pinpointed as the beginning of the end for Deila. “Two weeks before we had hit eight past Hamilton and everything looked as though it was going really well towards the end of the season and then [in that semi] we got the man sent off and conceded a second goal when we probably should have got a foul for the challenge on me as the corner came in. If you’re looking at results after that we probably didn’t hit the heights as we did during the Hamilton game, where everything seemed to click. And that was a blow. We probably didn’t come back from that as well as we could have done.”
In the past two years, Gordon has enjoyed an extraordinary comeback from the injury problems that seemed to have destroyed his career. Not for him then a total poo-poohing of the season only bringing his club a championship.
“Winning the championship is a success and we did it with a few games still to play, winning it by a reasonable number of points,” said Gordon. “That should be celebrated because it doesn’t happen every year; this is only my second-ever title as a player. But we wanted more from the season. We can’t deny that now and I’m not going to go back and say that we didn’t.
“Ultimately, though, we were unable to do that and we were left with the league, which is good but not all that we wanted.”