It shouldn’t be this hard for Craig Gordon to find a new club. The 29-year-old Scottish internationalist is still struggling to find his next club after being released by Sunderland in the summer. The former Hearts shot stopper, who holds the British record for a transfer paid for a goalkeeper (£9 million), has had his injury troubles in the past few years but still possess the qualities that saw him become one of the hottest properties in football in 2007. With 40 caps to his name and still in his prime, the lack of interest in Gordon is surprising to say the least. Questions over his fitness and more concerning the health of his troublesome left knee may be the reason that clubs have kept their distance but Gordon is now fit and keen to get his career back on track.
Gordon started his career at Hearts in the Scottish Premier League where he came through their successful youth setup alongside Robbie Neilson and Andy Webster in 2000. Seen as a future prospect but lacking experience by then manager Craig Levein, Gordon was farmed out on loan to Cowdenbeath to gain valuable match time and made 12 appearances before being recalled to Hearts following the departure of Finnish goalkeeper Antti Niemi to Southampton. Gordon made his long awaited first team debut in October 2002 away to Livingston. His performance in that game, which ended 1-1, convinced Levein to give him a run in the first team, at the expense of the then current No.1 at Hearts, Tepi Moilanen. Within 12 months, Gordon was firmly the first choice and the following season his consistent form earned him a nomination for Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year. Finishing second behind Hibernian’s Scott Brown, fans across Scotland started to call for Gordon to earn his first cap and become the natural successor to Neil Sullivan.
Gordon’s first cap ceventually came in May 2004 when he started in the 4-1 win against Trinidad and Tobago. It would be one of the last games of the Berti Vogts era which is marked as a bad spell in the nation’s history but what Vogts did do, to his credit, was blood some of the new crop of talented Scottish youngsters – Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown, Gary Caldwell, Lee McCulloch and James McFadden whilst installing a young Barry Ferguson as captain. After the departure of Vogts in November 2004, Walter Smith took over as national boss and pulled the young team into line, placing his faith in Gordon as his No.1 which helped the youngster develop his game and improve as a goalkeeper. By the time Smith left in 2007 to be replaced by Alex McLeish, Gordon had become one of the brightest prospects in European football, with Hearts struggled to hold on to their prize asset eventually giving in to the record-breaking bid by Sunderland.
Gordon moved to the Stadium of Light in the summer of 2007 and established himself as first choice despite manager Roy Keane consistent need to tamper with his squad. In his first season he played 34 times in-goal keeping 10 clean sheets in the process and becoming one of the Premierships top goalkeepers. At international level, Gordon continued his fine form as Scotland attempted to qualify for their first major international tournament since 1998. Having won at home against Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania and recorded historic wins home and away over France, Scotland welcomed Italy, knowing a win would be enough to secure a place at Euro 2008. Before the match in November 2007, legendary Italian goalkeeper Gigi Buffon was full of praise for his opposite number to the press, recognising Gordon’s talent and potential:
“Craig is a very, very good goalkeeper. In Europe, he is one of the best and among a group of keepers who can go forward and have a brilliant career. At this stage, he has already done so. The fact that he made a transfer to Sunderland for a lot of money in the summer just underlines his value”
Scotland lost the match 2-1 which ended their chances of qualifying and kicked off a spell of bad luck for Gordon. In the middle of the next season, Gordon injured his right knee which put him out of action for several months. After returning to the starting line up, Gordon fractured his right arm in an accidental collision with Tottenham striker Jermaine Defoe in November 2009, ruling him out for a further 3 months. He return in late January to fight for his place and by the end of the season was back as first choice. During the following pre season, Gordon broke his arm again, this time struggling to regain his place on his return, mostly due to the form of reserve keeper, Simon Mignolet. Gordon did get his chance but again cruel fate paid him a visit, with Gordon tearing a tendon injury in his knee, which he would struggle to recover from. Following knee surgery last summer, the shot stopper returned to the first team in January 2012 and looked to have regained his place, making one of the saves of the season against Bolton, diving quickly to his left to scoop a near certain goal over the top of the cross-bar. Despite this, Gordon was released at the end of the season by Sunderland, along with 9 other players.
Since then the keeper focused on returning to full fitness before signing for a new club as he wanted to prove that the worst of the injuries he had were behind him.
“I’m just trying to get back fully fit with that before I start looking for a club. I’ve still had a few niggling problems with my knee injury, which I’ve had on and off for quite some time now”
Now that he has done so, Gordon is now on the hunt for a new club to kickstart his career again. Speculation has linked him with Southampton, Liverpool and Everton in recent months but a contract has yet to be offered. With Allan McGregor now firmly in place as Scotland No.1, Gordon will be focusing all of his energies on getting back playing on a regular basis so he can once again challenge for the starting shirt for club and country. If Gordon can leave his injuries behind him and regain the form that he has shown in various stages of his career, he could turn out to be the signing of the season for any cub willing to take a gamble on the talented shot stopper.
To see Gordon’s save of the season, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQ38Il3LNes