Craig Gordon determined to win another Scottish Cup with Hearts - 16 years on from first success

·5-min read
Craig Gordon determined to win another Scottish Cup with Hearts - 16 years on from first success
Craig Gordon determined to win another Scottish Cup with Hearts - 16 years on from first success

CRAIG GORDON has competed in so many cup finals that the Hearts goalkeeper can’t even keep count of them anymore. But the Scotland internationalist will never forget his first.

Back in 2006, Gordon had long since established himself as the Tynecastle No.1 when the team reached the Scottish Cup final. Their opponents that day were third-tier Gretna; bankrolled by the late Brooks Mileson, the Borders outfit’s unsustainable spending had got them to within a penalty shoot-out of securing the famous old trophy and European football the following season.

Hearts were the odds-on favourites to triumph that day and although they ultimately did, the win was more hard-fought than many expected. With the scores tied at one apiece after 120 minutes, spot-kicks loomed.

Gordon would be the hero when he denied Derek Townsley from 12 yards as Valdas Ivanauskas’ men lifted the cup but the shoe will be on the other foot this afternoon. Now it is Hearts who are the outsiders, battling against the odds against a stronger opponent. But Gordon hopes that just like that famous day 16 years ago, it will end with the goalkeeper holding the Scottish Cup aloft.

“How many finals have I played in? I actually don’t know!  I don’t look back too often, it’s always about the next one and looking to achieve something more,” he said.

“If someone had told me back in 2006 I’d be at Hearts playing in another Scottish Cup final I wouldn’t have believed them. It has been a long time. I’m not sure if anyone has won two cups 16 years apart.

“That might be another little bit of history, but we have to get everything right for that to happen.  This is a chance to go out of this season on a high and that’s what we have been preparing for.

“The Gretna game years ago shows it’s just about winning, any way you can. And it also shows how well underdogs can do in football.

“There are always things from games gone by you can pick up inspiration from. We made heavy weather of it that day, we struggled to win it but got there on penalties in the end.

“This time we go into it as the underdogs, we’re the Gretna in this one, but that’s fine. Do I prefer that? I have had it both ways.

“I do like going in with the confidence knowing you’re the bigger team and if you get everything absolutely right then you should win it. But the other side of that is, as underdog you have to get everything right to give yourselves a chance.

“That’s what we have to aim for this [afternoon] - get everything spot on.”

Fortunately for Gordon and his team-mates, many players within the Hearts squad have experienced the big occasion previously. Robbie Neilson’s side lost out on penalties to Neil Lennon’s Celtic in the delayed 2019/20 final and although that particular day ended in heartbreak for the men from the capital, Gordon thinks it will prove useful today.

“We got there last season, actually two seasons ago but it was played last season, but didn’t win it,” the 39-year-old recalled. “We think we have improved since then, we’re in a better place and have new players who didn’t experience that final.

“It’s never nice to lose a final, I’ve been lucky enough to not lose too many but it’s not a nice feeling.  We know how it feels and we don’t want to feel that way again.

“Now we have got back there again, another chance to win the cup but it’s going to be tough against a team who are playing in a European final in the same week.

“We want to come out of it on the right side this time. If we get everything 100 per cent right, then we will give ourselves a chance and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

As club captain and the most experienced member of the squad, Gordon is tasked with not only getting ready himself for this afternoon’s encounter with Rangers but also ensuring that younger members of the squad have an older head to guide them through their preparation.

His routine in the build-up hasn’t really changed but he says that his position as both player and mentor has become easier as he has matured on and off the park.

“Do I do anything differently these days? No, I don’t think so because as a group we have to get the preparation right,” Gordon explained. “We have to make sure we arrive there in the best possible shape, physically and mentally.

“For me, it’s about making sure everyone stays calm and is in the best place. If we do that, get things right on the day then we’ll have every opportunity to win the game.

“Doing that dual role, as you get older it becomes a bit easier. Younger guys maybe focus more on themselves and what they need to do - and that’s fine. But that’s where I have to tie it all together, make sure the atmosphere in the camp is right and that everyone is working for each other.

“We have done that all season, we’ve stuck together as a group and that counts for a lot in these one-off games. All that stuff is done during the week so by the time you get to Hampden it’s then about people focusing on the game, the game plan and doing their own routines.

“Most of our work will be done before going there, the days before and the night before. We will be fighting for each other and for everyone watching us.”

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