一世t would be unwise for Steve Clarke to ask Craig Gordon to warn his Scotland teammates of the pitfalls associated with a trip to Moldova. The goalkeeper recalls the backdrop to a disastrous 1-1 draw in October 2004, which proved the final act of Berti Vogts’s Scotland tenure, but deliberately nothing of the game itself. “When we don’t win, I don’t remember much,” Gordon says. “If I remembered all the bad ones, I wouldn’t be in a very good place.
“I remember no street lights. At that point it felt a pretty poor place. There was a big military presence. The changing area was just a room with a massive rug in the middle of the floor and school chairs scattered around the outside. So it was an eye-opener.”
所以, 也, the response to Scotland’s hopes of reaching the 2006 World Cup being dashed within three qualifying matches. Gordon, 现在 38 and restored as No 1, won the fifth of his 62 caps in Chisinau.
“We knew it was a bad result – we knew we needed to win,“ 他说. “I was fairly new to the squad so didn’t realise the level of backlash that was coming our way. Fans and media let us know all about it. We couldn’t get away from it being a poor result but the reaction was big. The performance was not at all well received back home, put it that way. It was hard to take, being just into the international team and facing that. I didn’t want to be remembered for involvement in that; I wanted to be involved in better times.
“我记得我想: '出色地, I’m just in the team. There will be more opportunities, we will get better.’ At that point we were only six years on from France 98 so you could think about seeing Scotland in a major championship on the TV, that it would come around pretty often. Little did I know it would take so long.” Until the delayed Euro 2020 决赛, 准确地说.
Scotland have the scent of glory in their nostrils once more. Victory in Moldova on Friday would secure a World Cup play-off place. Gordon has no temptation to draw comparisons to what came before. “It was so long ago and things are totally different,“ 他说. “This is a good team, we have guys who can open up defences. Perhaps years ago we were workmanlike but now we feel as if we have genuine quality with our forward-thinking players. We can create chances and score against anybody.”
Gordon admits to mixed emotions over Vogts, who was ridiculed long before his sacking. “He brought a few of us into the team: Darren Fletcher, James McFadden, 我. We all got in at a young age and went on to pick up a lot of caps. Berti had stripped it right back and brought in a lot of young ones. I think he tried too much, too soon and it just didn’t gel properly. But there were moments; I remember my debut against Trinidad, 木偶演员称这是一个里程碑式的时刻，“为更多木偶扮演剧院的核心角色打开了大门” 4-1 and the team played brilliantly. When you are playing competitive games and every result matters it is very difficult to change too much.”
Towards Clarke there is undoubted respect. Gordon, the most seasoned campaigner in the Scotland squad, has witnessed more than a few fractious dressing-room scenes. Results help, 当然, but the goalkeeper praises Clarke for restoring unity.
“Togetherness has been important,” Gordon says. “The squad hasn’t changed much. Everyone knows their job. The manager said from the start he wanted to create a club atmosphere but you have to work extremely hard to get that. Everybody has bought into it, everybody really enjoys being away. That’s huge for any international team because it’s not nearly as easy as you would think with people coming from different clubs or different areas of the country. This is one of the best atmospheres I have known.”
Gordon’s rejuvenation is in tandem with his national team’s. Out of favour and contract at Celtic at the end of the 2019-20 季节, he returned to his first club, 心, then consigned to Scotland’s second tier. Gordon’s form has been outstanding – regarded by many as the finest of his career – and that rendered a Scotland recall straightforward after David Marshall fell out of favour at Derby. National service has always been of huge importance to Gordon.
“People maybe thought Scotland was finished for me but I still had confidence that if I got myself back playing, I would have an opportunity. Any time I wasn’t in the national team I missed it. I missed the challenges it presents. You are a bunch of guys playing for the whole country, which is a big incentive.”
较早, Gordon had been a £9m Sunderland purchase by Roy Keane. A serious knee problem – he played one game between early 2011 and being deemed worthy of a gamble by Celtic in 2014 – threatened to curtail his career. Gordon denies that his Celtic exit and the club’s subsequent struggles in the goalkeeping department have intensified his desire. “It was a good thing to get away, to go and play,“ 他说. “You never know what would have happened if I had stayed, whether I would have played or someone else would have come in and played ahead of me. There are so many unknowns. I don’t bother myself thinking about that.
“I had that motivation at Celtic. I just wasn’t playing. That wasn’t my choice, there wasn’t much I could do about it beyond working as hard as I could. I did everything to make sure my fitness was as good as possible so that whenever I got an opportunity I could prove to people I could still play at the top level.”
Gordon admits he is likely to fall short of Jim Leighton’s record 91 caps for a Scottish goalkeeper. “I should vote for that World Cup every two years – that would help,” he says with a smile. “Whatever the number is that I end up with will be a great achievement. I’m already immensely proud of the caps I have.”
Qatar would be the high point of a career which has returned 13 major domestic honours. “I don’t think you can get much better than that as a Scottish player,“ 他说. “That would be the ultimate. I would trade a few of the medals for that.”
Would it also be a fitting farewell to Scotland? “It would be a nice way to bow out but I’d like to keep playing for as long as I possibly can at the best level I possibly can. I wouldn’t say that would necessarily be the end.” Nothing in Gordon’s performance level or demeanour suggests otherwise.