It is a torch. Recent developments have infused the Hearts keeper with a powerful sense of that fact. The dreadful news that the prince of Scottish goalies in the modern age, Andy Goram, has been given only weeks to live with terminal cancer has ensured this trailblazer in his trade has been very much in Gordon’s thoughts. On the 39-year-old’s mind, too, following the announcement of his international retirement this week, has been his long-time friend and national team rival David Marshall. There is a lineage the current Scotland No 1 draws between the two men. A lineage that encompasses the third member of the nation’s latter day outstanding goalkeeping triumvirate in Allan McGregor.
Gordon describes himself as “last man standing” of these confreres, with the new Hibs keeper and the Rangers veteran having ended their international involvement that now spans a Scottish record 18 years for Gordon. The 69-times capped Tynecastle performer believes the trio have stood on the shoulders of the footballing giant Goram, and his contemporary Jim Leighton, to ensure no back-sliding in the esteem the finest keepers in this country are held. No-one would ever scoff about those that occupy the role now – as was wearyingly common two generations ago. Gordon is giving in the kudos he accords to Goram, an integral member of Rangers’ nine-in-a-row era team of the 1990s, for that.
“Everybody did,” said the Edinburgher in response to whether he looked up to the remarkable shotstopper, in his pomp as he entered his teens. “At that stage anybody who wanted to be a goalkeeper wanted to be like him. It is sad, the news, and obviously it doesn’t look good. We can only wish him the best in the last few weeks. It is going to be a sad, sad day for everybody [when he passes], especially us guys who grew up idolising him. You remember how well he played for Scotland and Rangers. Some of the saves he pulled off made a huge contribution to them winning games and winning titles.
“For me, that was one of the reasons I thought I could make a difference going in goal, because I could help the team there. I couldn’t run about very well but to see somebody like Andy, pulling off the saves he did, he was a huge inspiration to everybody growing up. He was a huge character as well and a real leader. The time when he was there was a great time for Rangers, they were so successful and a massive part of that was down to him. Potentially, all these years later, myself, David Marshall and Allan McGregor coming through, we were the guys who were watching him and taking tips and trying to become goalkeepers ourselves.
"So that will be a little bit of the legacy that he has left behind and it is to be hoped we can inspire the next generation. I hope, between the three of us, we have managed to carry that on [when it comes to Scottish keepers being respected down south]. There was a huge change in that with both those guys [Goram and Leighton]. They went down to the Premier League and showed at different times they could do it down there as well. You can’t praise them highly enough for the careers they had. Jim Leighton earned 91 caps. I am still a fair few short of that so I will keep going and see how many I can get.”
We now know how many caps Marshall has closed his Scotland career on. But that 47 figure won’t be how his contribution is recalled. His service will be forever remembered for the Serbia play-off shoot-out heroics in November 2020 that allowed Steve Clarke’s men to boogie their way to a first major finals for the country in 23 years. “It was a sad one for me [Marsh retiring],” said Gordon, who is the most decorated keeper in Celtic’s history. “He came to my room and we had a chat for about 20 minutes. He told me about his decision before he announced it [on Tuesday] and it was nice to talk about the years gone by and things that had happened. I can’t pay a high enough tribute to him. He has 47 caps and there have probably been more times than that he has sat on the bench. We have all had to do that for each other at different points, but him especially. He’s given everything to Scotland over the years. I would give up some of my caps to be the guy who saved the penalty which got us to the Euros. He’s got that over me and he will be fondly remembered by everyone for that.
"[Fellow Scotland keeper and Motherwell No 1] Liam Kelly told me a stat on Wednesday that there had only been three European or World Cup qualifiers in the last 17 years that myself, Allan McGregor or Marsh hadn’t played in. Liam is good at that stuff. It shows how long we have been here over those years and I am still going. We will see how much longer I can keep going. Marsh is a brilliant goalie and I got on so well with him since the under-21s, right through. He was my first room-mate going back to then, when we were in our late teens and early twenties. It was a sad day to see him eventually go. He’s a great person to have around the squad and he will be missed by everyone. Especially by me.”