Just like so many of the split-second decisions he makes inside a penalty area, Craig Gordon’s choice of career move in the summer of 2014 has turned out to be perfectly judged.
Allowing his head to firmly rule his heart, Gordon rejected the possibility of what he admits would have been an emotional return to Hearts.
The offer from his close friend Robbie Neilson of a player-coach role at the Tynecastle club was turned down in favour of the greater challenge provided by Celtic as Gordon looked to prove he could perform at the highest level again after being sidelined for two years by a career-threatening injury.
The 33-year-old has been fully vindicated over the past two seasons, in which he has been named Player of the Year in Scotland for a second time and returned to the international set-up where his role in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Denmark at Hampden constituted his 100th senior game since regaining full fitness.
As he prepares to try to shut out Hearts at Celtic Park today and help the Scottish champions towards a successful defence of their title, Gordon has reflected on his reasoning in ruling out a second spell at the club where he made his name.
“I knew it would have been an easier decision to join Hearts,” he said. “But I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to go all-in with my decision.
“I spoke to Robbie, I still speak with him, and at the time he was looking to bring in a goalkeeping coach who could also play.
“He would have liked me to get on board but at that stage I had to take the emotion out of the decision.
“It was whether to do that or push forward with my career. I knew I only had one chance to get it right and I felt that, if I was going to get back to the top level, Celtic was the best route for me.
“I wanted to return to the level I was before and to play for Scotland again. If I had dropped down, it might have looked like I had admitted defeat.
“Hearts were in the Championship that season and not favourites to come up at that stage, with Rangers being the favourites to win it. As it was, Hearts did fantastically well but it would have been difficult for me to go in there and do what I have done so quickly.
“It would still have been good and an achievement in itself. Probably, if I hadn’t gone on to do what I have done now with Celtic and Scotland, I wouldn’t have thought that, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“ That’s what I wanted to try and do and it has come off spectacularly.
“Everything went according to plan and I wanted to give myself that opportunity. I don’t think I would have been able to have done it if I had gone down the coaching route with Hearts.”
Gordon insists his instinctive affection for Hearts remains undiminished but he will never allow it to compromise his desire for further success as a Celtic player.
“I can’t change how I feel about Hearts and I wouldn’t try and tell the Celtic fans anything else,” he said.
“You can’t change who you support as a boy and who your whole family have come through supporting. Hearts is a great club and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. It was my dream to come through and play first-team football there.
“I’d been there since I was 12, training with the youth teams and to progress all the way through and play for the first team was the dream and I managed to do that.
“But to come to Celtic and now play against them, I think I’ve proven in the games against them that I’ve played well and I want to win every game and do my job to the best I can. That never comes into it, it’s something you learn to do as a professional, you take the emotion out of it and go out and do your job.
“The way the Celtic fans have reacted to me has been fantastic. Even at times when I haven’t played so well, the support I’ve had from them, I couldn’t have asked for any more.
“They’ve really helped me along to perform at the best of my abilities and I’m loving every minute of being here, playing in front of them and trying to win trophies.”