Craig Gordon has revealed that the lure of getting Hearts challenging again at the top end of Scottish football after relegation to the Championship was a major factor in him returning to the club.
The 37-year-old refused a reduced contract at Celtic to sign a two-year deal with Hearts. He is new manager Robbie Neilson’s first signing and admitted only Celtic stopped him going back to Tynecastle Park in January.
Gordon was an integral part of the Hearts team which won the Scottish Cup and reached the Champions League qualifying rounds in 2006. He also sampled the UEFA Cup group phase with the club in 2004.
Although they will play in the Scottish Championship next season unless the Court of Session overrule their enforced relegation, the goalkeeper said he had no hesitation going back to his formative club.
His aim is to help restore them to a position near the top of the Premiership, where they often finished during his first spell.
“Those were some interesting years to be at Hearts,” he smiled. “That’s all been pretty well documented by everybody over the years but on the park we were still successful, finishing second in the league and winning the Scottish Cup.
“There were quite a few highlights. I’m proud of my time here, playing in European football on a few occasions, getting to the group stages of what is now the Europa League. Those were huge achievements back then.
“With everything that’s getting put in place here – the stadium, the staff, everybody that’s behind it, the fans, the Foundation of Hearts, all the money that’s been put in – they are really trying to get back to those days when they are qualifying for Europe on a regular basis. I want to be part of that.”
Gordon deduced that he was not a key part of Celtic’s plans during recent contract negotiations. “Things just petered out over the last few weeks,” he explained.
“The one thing I always wanted to do was get back playing football. The money side was always going to be secondary. It was about doing what was right for me.
"Celtic have a big season coming up and they have a few decisions to make in the goalkeeping department. It's up to them to make those decisions.
"I didn't feel I was a big priority there at this particular moment in time, and that's absolutely fine. That's what happened last season when they wanted to keep Fraser [Forster] on. That's football.
"I had to make my decision for me. They will make their signings and prepare for the new season. For me, it was about doing what I wanted – getting back playing football. I've got a fantastic opportunity back at Hearts.
"I loved playing here before, I grew up as a supporter and to have the opportunity to come back at this stage in my career is something not many players get to do. I'm so grateful and happy to have that opportunity. I want to try and be as successful as we possibly can.”
Asked about Hearts coveting his signature six months ago, Gordon replied: “Celtic wouldn't let me go in January. I did want to get out and play games at that point.
“I would have liked to come back to Hearts in that window but it wasn't possible. It didn't get that close in the end but it was something I wanted to do.
“As soon as Robbie made contact and wanted the deal to go through, I was very happy. Having played with him, I know what he's like. He spoke about getting everybody together and creating a good atmosphere. I think that's already happening. There are positive signs at Hearts.
"The new manager is back after a successful time here last time, winning the Championship and being up the top end of the league. If he can bring that back, everybody will be delighted. We are all pulling in the same direction and we can really create something good here.
“That’s the reason I want to be part of it. I want to get back playing football and achieve what Hearts should be achieving at the top end of the league.”
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