Craig Gordon, though, has always ploughed his own path in a glittering career that shows no signs of reaching an end point. A fact evidenced by the 39-year-old’s exhilarating form in this campaign placing him among the nominees for PFA Scotland’s player of the year. Indeed, the Scotland keeper seems to have enjoyed three careers rolled into one. And it is stirring memories from a decade-and-a-half ago that lead him to not hold back in endorsing the credentials of Roy Keane for the vacancy down Leith way – and being alive to the wider benefits of the appointment.
No-one in the Scottish game is better qualified than Gordon to give insight into the trackside abilities of the irascible, yes, but, equally, too-easily-caricatured Irishman. Keane made Gordon the then most expensive keeper in UK football history by paying Hearts £9m for his services in the summer of 2007. In his two years at the helm of the Stadium of Light, the now 50-year-old created a competitive environment that has the Hearts captain firmly of the belief his city rivals could be handsomely rewarded if choosing to recruit the Manchester United icon.
“I think it would be brilliant for Scottish football in terms of the stature that he would bring, and the press attention that he would bring not only to Hibs, but to Edinburgh as well,” said Gordon. “I think he could be a very good manager, he proved that early on at Sunderland when he got them promoted and kept them in the league. You look where Sunderland are now [in pushing for the play-offs in League One]. Maybe people didn’t think that was a huge achievement at the time, it actually was. To be able to do that, to get them promoted [to the English top flight] and keep them in the league for the whole time he was there…so, yeah, I would love it, let’s see if it happens.”
Gordon doesn’t dispute it would be “spicy” – “he is a huge name and it would be pretty special for both clubs in Edinburgh,” – yet Keane’s form for, eh, full and frank exchanges of opinion with those in his orbit, has resulted in his skillset for a managerial post being largely ignored. Gordon is very much of a mind that Keane was a hard but fair boss with real strengths that wouldn’t be rendered a “dinosaur” on a return a decade on from his last frontline post. That came with a failed two-year stint with Ipswich Town that followed an unhappy parting with Sunderland. Gordon suggests the low points have blinded too many to the upsides of the Cork man in a dressing room.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say. I would love it if he came to Edinburgh, I think it would be great,” he said. “Without a doubt [I can see his strengths]. There’s obviously been a couple of clubs where it hasn’t worked out for him, for whatever reason. But certainly while at Sunderland the spirit in that team to stay in that league, the amount of late goals that we got to get a draw or get a win that scraped us by to get enough points to stay in the league was a huge achievement.”