FOR­GIVE AND FOR­GET

Gor­don buries hatchet with new Blue De­foe

Evening Times - - FEATURES - BY NEIL CAMERON IN DUBAI

SO far, so good and from now it’s go­ing to be bet­ter. A lot bet­ter.

That’s Craig Gor­don’s re­as­sur­ing mes­sage to the Celtic sup­port­ers at what is more or less the half­way stage of the Scot­tish do­mes­tic sea­son.

The Premier­ship is tight and yet Celtic, who have not been close to their best, sit top. The Cham­pi­ons League was a dis­ap­point­ment; how­ever, next month comes an ex­cit­ing Europa League tie with Va­len­cia and with three new play­ers signed – all at­tack­ers – and a de­cent run of fix­tures wait­ing for the team when the sea­son be­gins again, the big goalie has a point.

Celtic fans of a cer­tain age are spoiled. They panic when an­other team has the gall to do well and ev­ery dropped point is a mini-cri­sis to those brought up in noth­ing but suc­cess.

True, the cham­pi­ons would have liked to be, and should be, fur­ther ahead but as Gor­don points out, things could be worse.

He said: “We are top of the league, we won the League Cup, we’re still in Europe. If you were look­ing at three things at the start off the sea­son to have hap­pened by now then it’s those three. We have done the job we set out to do but we can al­ways im­prove and that’s what we were do­ing in Dubai.

“We are try­ing to im­prove on what we’ve done, we have laid good foun­da­tions by start­ing well enough. Sure, we would like to be fur­ther ahead but in terms of what we’ve achieved so far, it’s job done.

“Now we need to fo­cus on hav­ing a good end to the sea­son, press­ing home the good we’ve done, and it could be an­other spe­cial year.

“You could go down to Hibs in eighth are in this [sit­u­a­tion]. With a good run, they could get right up there. There’s a lot of teams in­volved, but that will bring its pres­sure to those teams be­cause they are not used to be­ing in this po­si­tion.

“It will be an in­ter­est­ing sec­ond half of the sea­son. We will see who can come and have a go. From our point of view, we’re happy with the po­si­tion we are in, we are used to the pres­sure that brings and I’m look­ing for­ward to press­ing home our ad­van­tage and get­ting away from the rest of the teams.

“We can take con­fi­dence from the fact we know what it takes to get the job done. And, really, no­body else does over re­cent times be­cause we’ve won it the last seven years. It is some­thing that’s new to those teams and a lot of the play­ers who will need to step up and deal with it.

“That will come on in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. It’s some­thing we’ve en­joyed when the big games have come along and more of­ten than not we’ve stepped up and per­formed.”

Gor­don’s last game for Celtic was one of his best and worst.

He made six su­perb Rangers at Ibrox on a day when the 1-0 de­feat would have been a lot worse, in terms of be­ing a Celtic player, had their keeper not has a su­perb day at the of­fice with his hands. Goal­keep­ers like mak­ing saves, that is their job after all, but to this ul­ti­mate team player it counted for lit­tle be­cause his side walked off the pitch well de­feated in the end.

Gor­don said: “I had a few saves in the game, which is al­ways nice as a goal­keeper. It means more if you get some­thing out of the game; it was a bit of a re­ver­sal from the game at Celtic Park when Al­lan [Mc­Gre­gor] made a num­ber of saves and we won 1-0.

“I was happy with the way I per­formed and if Broony hadn’t tried to shut his legs I prob­a­bly would have saved that one as well. One the day I felt good and on top of my game.

“But I was as dis­ap­pointed as any­one go­ing back into the dress­ing room know­ing that we missed the chance to go six points ahead with a game in hand. That would have been an ex­cel­lent po­si­tion, al­beit we’re in a good one.”

Gor­don turned 36 on Hog­manay, which even for a goal­keeper is crack­ing on a bit. Not that the old guy in the dress­ing room has any plans to hang up the gloves.

Asked when he aims to play for, he said: “As long as I pos­si­bly can. Hope­fully I’m not slow­ing down. If I can keep on top of in­juries and make sure my body is in a fit state to go out there and per­form then I’ll want to keep play­ing.”

Gor­don is still Bren­dan Rodgers’ No 1, at least in the league and Europe. Scott Bain, who has done lit­tle wrong, played in the Bet­fred Cup games and it’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to see if the man­ager changes his keep­ers for the Scot­tish Cup, which be­gins at home to Air­drie on the 19th of this month.

Gor­don said: “I don’t know what will hap­pen. I’d like to play, I want to play in ev­ery game. That’s prob­a­bly be­cause I missed a chunk in the mid­dle of my ca­reer. I am fit, I am able to play, so want to be in­volved all the time.”

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