Declan McConville with A Celtic State of Mind – Another Invincible departs…

After being out of the professional game for two years, free agent Craig Gordon was brought into Celtic when the club knew definitely that Fraser Forster was about to depart for Southampton.

This allowed Gordon to cement his place as first-choice goalkeeper under the new Celtic manager Ronny Deila. There were many questions asked at the beginning of that season as the club crashed out the Champions League to Slovenian champions, NK Maribor at the play-off round of the competition. Craig Gordon, however, was one of the standout performers in the Europa League as the Hoops qualified for European football after Christmas with the big goalkeeper putting in strong displays against FC Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb and FC Astra.

In his first full season at the club he developed a good relationship with the centre-back pairing in front of him: Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer. Between December and January, Gordon kept eight successive clean sheets which were crucial in helping Celtic on the way to their fourth successive title. As well as impressing in the league, he also kept a clean sheet in every round of the League Cup which earned him his first winners’ medal at Celtic.

At the end of the season, he received many plaudits which included winning Player of the Year by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association and being selected as part of the PFA SPFL team of the year. Craig Gordon was officially back to his best!

Listen to PAUL ELLIOTT with A Celtic State of Mind here:

Like many players around the club, Gordon’s form wasn’t great during Ronny’s second year in charge. The departures of van Dijk and Denayer no doubt played a part in the keeper’s performances being below par at times. With the arrival of Brendan Rodgers the following season it looked as though Gordon’s place as first choice goalkeeper was under threat with the arrival of Dutchman Dorus De Vries. At the beginning of the campaign, Gordon pulled off a terrific save from a penalty in a 2-0 defeat to Hapoel Be’er Sheva which helped the Scottish champions qualify for the Champions League after a three-year absence.

De Vries came into the side at the end of August and went on to play in the first ‘Demolition Derby’ of the season as Celtic thumped Rangers 5-1. For most of September, Craig Gordon sat on the bench until De Vries sustained an injury against Kilmarnock which would give the Scottish internationalist a chance to regain his spot as Number One. There was then no looking back for Gordon as he became an integral part of a side that was to establish new records, and win an ‘invincible’ treble. One of the abiding images from the 2017 Scottish Cup final was the sheer joy of Craig Gordon celebrating Tom Rogic’s stoppage-time winner as he fell to the ground.

The feeling of a treble-winning player was becoming rather familiar around Celtic Park as the club would go on to win three trebles in-a-row to make it a ‘Treble Treble’. Craig Gordon has certainly more than played his part in the current successful spell that the club is experiencing. He was part of the side which went 69 games unbeaten to set a new British record. He played at the very top level for Celtic in European competition and pulled off some stunning saves against sides such as Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona. The keeper won six League titles, five League Cups and three Scottish Cups and will no doubt be welcomed back for the ten-in-a-row celebrations.

All the best, Craig!

Declan McConville

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