Hearts captain Craig Gordon reveals why Hampden win over Rangers would top cup glory with Celtic

With age comes certain privileges, one of which is the wisdom to cherish the good times when they roll, another is the freedom to call it like it is.

And, like grandparents who have long since ditched the filter that allows others to conform to societal norms, 39-year-old Craig Gordon is at the stage of his career where he no longer feels the need to pretend.

Talking in the build up to Saturday’s Scottish Cup final, the Hearts captain has no compunction to claim that he is so focused on the match that he hasn’t even considered the aftermath. As captain of the club he grew up supporting, of course he has imagined walking up the Hampden steps to collect the trophy before hoisting it high to the soundtrack of jubilation in the maroon and white bedecked stands.

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It wouldn’t be the first time he has got his hands on one of the most prestigious pieces of silverware in Scottish football - he has won it three times - and it wouldn’t even be the first time as a Hearts player.

“Yeah but not as captain,” states the Scotland number one, highlighting a key difference. “That would be something pretty special. My family are all Hearts fans so to have them there and see that would be the best moment for them of my entire career, I’ve no doubt. And for me as well.

“To actually lift the cup as the captain of a team – I really don’t think it gets much better than that. Hopefully everybody does the business and we manage to make that happen.

“I think that’s only natural [to think about lifting the cup as captain]. There’s no point trying to fight that. I would love to do that, everybody would. So, of course you allow yourself to imagine that and you prepare for the game imagining that as the outcome. It might not be but that is certainly what we’re planning for.”

That single detail, of heading up the steps, the leader of a tight team of winners, is what would elevate this win above all others.

Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon says captaining Hearts to a Scottish Cup final win would be his career high. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“I have achieved some pretty amazing things, especially since coming back into football, but to actually be that person that leads your team up the steps … I don’t think it gets any better. “

Having come so close in the 2020 final, pushing Celtic all the way to penalties, the Hearts goalkeeper believes the Tynecastle side, managed by one of his team-mates from the club’s 2006 triumph, have what it takes to see their ambitions through against a Rangers side who came up short in Wednesday’s Europa League final.

“If we get everything one hundred percent right, then we will give ourselves a chance and that’s what we’re looking to do.

“We have to make sure we arrive there in the best possible shape, physically and mentally. For me, it’s about making sure everyone stays calm and is in the best place.”

A pivotal figure the night before the semi-final, taking time to balance out the nerves and excitement of his less experienced colleagues, he sees that as a major component of his captaincy.

“Doing that dual role, as you get older it becomes a bit easier. Younger guys maybe focus more on themselves and what they need to do - and that’s fine.

“But that’s where I have to tie it all together, make sure the atmosphere in the camp is right and that everyone is working for each other.

“We have done that all season, we’ve stuck together as a group and that counts for a lot in these one-off games.

“We will be fighting for each other and for everyone watching us.”

The memories of 2006 serve as an indication of how a cup win would be received in Gorgie. And, that drives him, and his gaffer Robbie Neilson on.

“If someone had told me back in 2006 I’d be at Hearts playing in another Scottish Cup final I wouldn’t have believed them. It has been a long time, I’m not sure if anyone has won two cups sixteen years apart so that might be a little bit of history, but we have to get everything right for that to happen.

“This is a chance to go out of this season on a high and that’s what we have been preparing for.

“The Gretna game years ago shows it’s just about winning, any way you can. And it also shows how well underdogs can do in football. There are always things from games gone by that you can pick up inspiration from.

“We made heavy weather of it that day, we struggled to win it but got there on penalties in the end. This time we go into it as the underdogs, we’re the Gretna in this one, but that’s fine.”

How well Rangers will react to the midweek disappointment and the energy-sapping heat and humidity of Seville could factor into the final result, but despite upping their performances and finding ways to win big games this season, having already booked European group stage involvement next term, Hearts have some unknown qualities of their own to overcome.

“We have a few players just getting back, there are boys trying really hard to be fit for this one, according to Gordon, who also has vital Scotland fixtures to look forward to in the coming weeks.

“There’s a mix of adrenaline and hopefully that can get them through because there’s no bigger prize [in domestic cup competition] than a Scottish Cup final.

“It’s one last game, so, let’s give it everything because we have everything to gain from it.”

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