Craig Gordon reveals girlfriend’s coaching help ahead of Hearts homecoming

Former Celtic goalkeeper looking forward to linking up with old team mates at Tynecastle

Craig Gordon is looking forward to linking up with old team-mates Robbie Neilson and Christophe Berra following his return to Hearts. Photograph: SNS

As a player going out of contract at Celtic but determined not to go out of shape, Craig Gordon sought unexpected assistance on the home front during the Covid-19 lockdown before he sealed a homecoming to Hearts this week.

The 37-year-old keeper’s partner Summer Harl proved his unofficial goalkeeping coach as he stepped up his training efforts to compensate for the fact he is without a senior appearance in 2020.

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“She used to play for Norwich City Girls so she’s not too bad actually,” Gordon said. “She’s had a few shots into the portable goals out the back and has even managed a few goals. I’m sure she’ll be delighted I have mentioned that… We’ve done that a few times but it’s not quite the same as getting out there training with the guys, getting ready for matches. But I do feel as if I am in good shape and ready to go.”

Following the pandemic shut-down in mid-March, the final months of his trophy-strewn six years with Celtic also led Gordon to get on his bike.

“The football work is difficult to replicate but I’ve got a static bike at home,” he said. “Celtic sent out all the fitness equipment to the players so they could keep in general shape from home. So while still under contract I had all that equipment. The sports science department also put programmes in place.

‘As soon as I signed with Hearts I had a phone call from Robbie [Neilson, pictured] to introduce me to his fitness coach and the guys here to put things in place until we joined together for training.

“So he is very on the ball, very organised, to do that within five minutes of me signing the contract… I have already had the manager in my ear telling me to get fit for pre-season training.”

The Hearts to which Gordon has returned are far removed from the Tynecastle club he left for Sunderland in August 2007 in a £9 million deal that was then the record fee paid by a British club for a goalkeeper.

The Gorgie club had just finished fourth in the top flight when he left. SFA arbitration notwithstanding, Hearts will start next season in the second tier – which won’t roll around for Championship clubs till early October.

Yet, Gordon wouldn’t be averse to Neilson, his team-mate at Hearts first time around, doing a little of what be the footballing equivalent of getting the band back together.

In the mid-2000s Gordon played behind Christophe Berra, who has returned to training with Hearts following a loan spell with Dundee that was necessitated by his unceremonious dumping from the Tynecastle set-up by Neilson’s short-lived predecessor Daniel Stendel.

“I spoke to Christophe and he has absolutely no regrets about what happened,” said the Scotland international keeper.

“These things can happen. It happened to me in the last season at Celtic… from thinking pre-season that I would be a big part of the team to just making a handful of appearances. You never can tell. That’s what can happen, regardless of who you are or what team you are at. Things move on and managers make decisions, other players come in and these things are possible.

“Christophe knows that and is quite philosophical about it. That’s football. I have spoken to him and he is just excited to get back training and give himself the best opportunity to try and play games again.

“He is a great professional which is the reason he has been captain of this club. So to have him in and around the place to be a leader, you want as many of those as you can get and it’s going to make for a very successful dressing-room.

“It will be up to Robbie to come in and mould the team and get us playing the way he wants us to. We’re all looking forward to getting back in and finding out how he wants us to play, the formation and the style we’ll go forward with. I think everybody will be looking forward to a fresh start, it certainly feels that way in and around the city with the fans.

“You see online what everybody is thinking and there is a real sense of togetherness to push this team forward. Everything that has happened over the last few months has really galvanised the team and the fans and it will push everybody forward.”

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