Celtic’s Craig Gordon says he’ll cope fine when career is over

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Once you have experienced the anguish and uncertainty of spending two years sidelined by injury, being ruled out for a couple of months is inevitably much easier to deal with.

As Craig Gordon reflects on his return to action for Celtic on Wednesday night, marking his 200th appearance for the club with his 100th clean sheet in the 0-0 draw against Dundee, he insists he never harboured any real concerns his latest knee injury was as bad as the one which threatened to end his career during his hiatus from football from 2012 to 2014.

Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon returned to action in Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Dundee. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS

Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon returned to action in Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Dundee. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS

Even if it did, the Scotland international reasons that he has now reached a stage where if he was informed his time as a goalkeeper is up, he would have no difficulty dealing with that reality.

“I’m 35 now and when these things come along, even if the worst-case scenario is that it’s career-ending, I’ve still done remarkably well to come back previously,” said Gordon.

“So it’s easier for me. I’m not a young player any more and I can deal with that. I’ve already had what could have been the end and managed to come back from it, so when that time comes when it’s the end of my career, through my choice or through an injury, it probably doesn’t hold as much weight as it would for someone else because I have already been there and managed to get back.

“I’ve now managed 200 extra games in my career and that’s just for Celtic, not including internationals. It’s 200 more from a time when I thought I wasn’t going to play another
one, so whatever happens from now on is always going to be a lot easier to deal with.

“For me, it was great to get back only nine weeks after the injury this time because after the initial scans, it looked like it would be a lot longer.

“When I got the injury against Hibs in January, it didn’t feel like what I’d done before. But I knew walking off the pitch at half-time that there was something fairly seriously wrong.

“I wanted to try and come back out for the second half and the medical staff wouldn’t let me – quite rightly so. They saved me from myself at that point by realising there was something quite serious.

“It only took a few days to know exactly what was going on. Obviously, at that point, there is that worry it could be something else. I knew from the feeling it was my medial ligament. From having so many knee injuries, I’m quite good on my knees and what parts are where. I said to the physios as I walked off the pitch what the damage was and I was right! It was a case of that being confirmed to me. The only other thing was whether there was anything else that went with it. Thankfully, there wasn’t. My knee was in a brace for five weeks, so from four-and-a-half weeks getting the brace off to playing is a really quick turnaround.

“At the end of that game against Hibs, I was stuck on 199 appearances and 99 clean sheets. It was a few months waiting to get back for the two milestones and to do them both in the same game is quite satisfying for me. Fifty per cent clean sheets is a great record for any club in any league, so I’m proud of that.”

Gordon admits his achievements with Celtic have exceeded even his own expectations since he joined the club four years ago.

“Did I think I’d play 200 games? No. I was reminded of it after the Dundee game when someone said to me ‘Who would have thought you would have played 200 games when you signed?’

“It’s right enough. I don’t think anyone would have thought I’d have managed to do that. I’m maybe even in the same boat that I didn’t think it was possible. But I hope that I can go on and get a few more.”

On-loan Dundee ‘keeper Scott Bain has performed well for Celtic in Gordon’s absence, joining Dorus de Vries in providing competition for the position.

“I’ve got a battle to stay in the team, absolutely,” added
Gordon. “Both Dorus and Scott have had game-time and Scott’s had a couple of clean sheets in his last two games and a few decent performances. I’ll need to work hard.

“I was happy with my personal performance against Dundee. After that amount of time out, I read the game quite well and that is always something that takes a bit of time coming back, so I was happy.

“I had one save, which was nice in the first half to make that contribution for the team. It was good to get it under my belt as I looked at the clock and it was seven or eight minutes and I hadn’t touched the ball. It boosted confidence and the boys around me are good 
talkers, so it was easy to come back into that environment.”