Craig Gordon: Nicklas Bendtner can destroy anyone on his day

Craig Gordon appeals in vain as Nicklas Bendtner  celebrates scoring for Arsenal against Sunderland at the Emirates in 2010.
Craig Gordon appeals in vain as Nicklas Bendtner celebrates scoring for Arsenal against Sunderland at the Emirates in 2010.
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The two clean sheets Craig Gordon kept against Rosenborg 12 months ago were as valuable as any of the Celtic goalkeeper’s contributions to another memorable season for his club.

If he can repeat the feat against the Norwegian side over the course of the next eight days, Gordon and his team-mates should take another step closer to a third consecutive appearance in the Champions League group stage.

The 35-year-old is in no doubt as to who represents the biggest threat to those ambitions as Celtic square off against Rosenborg once more in the second qualifying round of the tournament.

Gordon spent the 2011-12 
season as a team-mate of Nicklas Bendtner when the Danish international striker, then an Arsenal player, was on loan at Sunderland.

Bendtner is regarded as something of a maverick who has not fully realised his rich potential in the game, but Gordon saw more than enough to make him remain wary of the 30-year-old’s ability to inflict 
damage on Celtic.

“On his day he can destroy anyone,” said Gordon, as he prepared to face up to Bendtner in tonight’s first leg at Celtic Park.

“He is a fantastic player. The criticism of him would be that it’s not been often enough. But when he does, I’ve seen him absolutely destroy some top Premier League teams on his own.

“I thought he was a decent guy when I played with him at Sunderland. I liked him. He was quite funny. I don’t think he ever bothers too much about anything. For a striker, that’s probably a good way to be.

“He is an interesting character. I enjoyed his company. I’m sure he is still the same. For his football ability, he is one we will definitely have to watch. He has been at some top clubs all around Europe and has done well for himself.

“There are a lot of players who people think maybe haven’t made as much of their talent as they could, especially strikers. When they are on form, when they are confident, they are fantastic. But when it doesn’t quite happen for them they can string a poor performance together.

“But Nicklas still has had a very good career at some top clubs. He is still only 30, he still has a good few years left in him yet. He is a good player regardless of what anybody says about him. If he is confident and he is playing well, then he is a big, big player.”

Bendtner scored twice from the penalty spot in Rosenborg’s dramatic 3-2 aggregate win over Valur Reykjavik in the first qualifying round, converting them both nervelessly. “I have seen him take them at Sunderland,” added Gordon. “He is very good at them. I think confidence when you step up to take that penalty is important and he certainly has plenty of that. He is a good finisher and is a really good player.

“We have watched a good bit of not just him, but the rest of the Rosenborg team. There are a few other really good players in that team as well. We won’t get sidetracked just by looking at Nicklas. There are a few others who can certainly hurt us as well.”

Gordon has also warned against the notion Rosenborg could be adversely affected by the discontent among their players at last week’s controversial sacking of Kare Ingebrigtsen, pictured inset, as manager. A delegation made a formal protest to the club chairman, unsurprisingly to no avail.

Player unrest at the actions of those running a club is not unfamiliar territory to Gordon, of course, who was among the senior players who went public with their feelings on Vladimir Romanov’s stewardship of Hearts over a decade ago.

“That can actually galvanise a team,” said Gordon. “Look at what Hearts achieved that season – winning the Scottish Cup and finishing second in the league. The players were united to fight, whether that was against the manager or the regime and Hearts succeeded in spite of what was happening off the pitch, so I don’t think we should look too much into that.

“We know it’s going to be difficult against Rosenborg, regardless of what may be happening with them. They have good players.

“They will know it was a close tie last year. There wasn’t much in it over the two legs. It was a tough tie for us. We are going to have to play well. We played well in both legs last season. You have to maintain your performance levels throughout these qualifiers because all of 
the teams are capable of putting you out.

“It’s another tough ask this season, going out there to qualify for a third year in a row, but we can’t look too far ahead – we need to concentrate on getting past this round. We know we’re going to have to play well to beat Rosenborg so we’ll need to make sure we know exactly what we’re doing.”