Robbie Neilson backs 'outstanding' Hearts keeper Craig Gordon for Scotland No.1 role

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has fully endorsed Craig Gordon as a potential Scotland No.1 for this month’s World Cup qualifiers.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is preparing his team to face Arbroath.

National coach Steve Clarke must decide whether Derby County’s David Marshall is fit enough for upcoming ties against Austria, Israel and the Faroe Islands after a back injury.

Gordon is waiting for an opportunity amid an excellent run of form for Hearts in the Scottish Championship.

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Marshall, 36, was first choice as Scotland beat Serbia in November to qualify for this summer’s European Championship. However, he has missed the last five games at club level.

Clarke will be eager to see if he starts Derby’s Championship match at Stoke City on Saturday. Either way, Neilson stressed Gordon is more than capable of stepping in.

“I am absolutely delighted for him, I think he’s earned it,” said the Hearts manager. “Hopefully he gets a starting position and gives Steve some thoughts about who is going to be the No.1 going into the Euros.

“Craig has done it consistently right through the season. His big thing was about getting back playing again and he’s done that. He’s played every game that he’s been available for us and has been outstanding. I hope he gets a start and hope he does well. I’m sure he will.”

Gordon will face Arbroath at Gayfield Park this afternoon before leaving for international duty along with Northern Ireland’s Michael Smith and Liam Boyce.

Hearts will then turn to their deputy goalkeeper – the Livingston loanee Ross Stewart – for Tuesday’s Scottish Cup tie at Brora Rangers and Saturday’s league game at home to Queen of the South.

“Ross has been doing really well for us in training and bounce games and this will give him a wee opportunity to come in and play some games,” said Neilson.

“In the last few weeks we’ve been consistent with our team selection but with the international break we’re going to lose a few players. It’s a chance for guys to come in.

“If we can do well in the Scottish Cup, we would have a number of games next month so we would have to rotate a wee bit as well.”

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