Craig Gordon: Winning 50th Scotland cap ‘would be huge for me’

Craig Gordon says reaching the World Cup finals would be the pinnacle of his career. Picture: SNS.
Craig Gordon says reaching the World Cup finals would be the pinnacle of his career. Picture: SNS.
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On what is already sure to be a highly-charged occasion at Hampden on Thursday night, there will be an added layer of emotion for Craig Gordon.

The goalkeeper is poised to win his 50th cap for Scotland in the crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovakia, a milestone moment which he freely admits he once believed had passed 
him by.

Gordon made his 40th appearance for his country almost seven years ago before losing his place in the team to a combination of career-threatening injury and competition from David Marshall and Allan McGregor for the No 1 jersey.

After two years out of senior football altogether, from 2012 to 2014, Gordon has spectacularly revived his career since joining Celtic. His rehabilitation has been completed by firmly re-establishing himself as Scotland’s first-choice ‘keeper and this week he should become only the 31st player in the 145-year history of the international team to reach a half-century of caps. It will earn Gordon a place in the Scottish FA’s Roll of Honour in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden.

“To get my 50th Scotland cap in a game of this importance this week would be huge for me,” admits the 34-year-old. “I was stranded on 40 caps when I got injured and that seemed like a million miles away, to get another 10 caps after that.

“That was part of the reason I came back to football with Celtic. I wanted to get back to that level. At one stage, I’d have been delighted with one more cap. Just to be able to say that I had come back and done well enough to play for my country one more time, that would have been enough.

“But to go and get another 10 to make it to 50 and get on to the Roll of Honour is amazing. I will only be the third goalkeeper to do that, after Jim Leighton, pictured, and Alan Rough.

“Getting 50 caps is something I’ve wanted to do and, as I’ve progressed in my career, I wanted to try and get closer to it. So it will be very special if I can get it against Slovakia.

“It will be very emotional to go out at Hampden and do that. I’ve managed to come back and play in the Champions League with Celtic but to do as well as I have over the last four years is incredible.”

Since making his Scotland debut as a 21-year-old Hearts player in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago at Easter Road back in 2004, Gordon has just about fulfilled every ambition he set out with at the start of his career.

Like the rest of his generation, however, an appearance at a major tournament finals for Scotland is the most notable omission from his CV. With hopes of reaching next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia rekindled by recent results, Gordon is now determined to complete his personal career bucket list.

“That would be at the top for me,” he added. “That would be the final thing. To be able to go to Russia and compete in the World Cup finals would top it all and complete 
everything that I wanted to do.

“I’ve won titles and trophies with Hearts and Celtic, played in the Champions League, but to be able to play in the World Cup – then I could sit back once I retire and be very happy.

“It’s still in Scotland’s hands to do that. But we’ve got to win a play-off as well if we can finish second in this group. We’ve gone our last four games undefeated in qualifying and we will basically need to go another four unbeaten to get there. So we need to do eight in a row.

“It’s still a difficult task, but we have given ourselves a chance. The next game with Slovakia is the most important one. We’ll have a big home crowd behind us and it will be a lot busier than the Malta game at Hampden last time out. The fans will give us a great backing to produce a great effort.

“Slovakia are a really good side. They gave England a scare in their last game at Wembley and we are going to have to play really well to come out with the win.

But with everyone behind us, and with the way the team is playing now, we’ve given ourselves a chance.

“We were brilliant in the 3-0 win in Lithuania last month. It was a complete performance. The manager said that was one of the best he’d seen, not just in his time, but also for quite some time. We passed it really well, our movement was excellent and we created so many chances for an away team. We dominated the game and we felt totally in control. It was one of those nights where everything seemed to click and everyone was on form. It was really enjoyable to be part of a team that plays that well.”