Hearts v Rangers: Can 'world-class' Craig Gordon frustrate the champions again?
Last updated on .From the section Hearts
|Scottish Premiership: Hearts v Rangers|
|Venue: Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh Date: Sunday, 12 December Time: 12:00 GMT|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.|
His Hearts manager has hailed him as "world class". Fellow international goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel says he is an "inspiration". Can Craig Gordon continue his remarkable form by helping Hearts stun Rangers on Sunday?
The Tynecastle and Scotland number one will celebrate his 39th birthday on Hogmanay, but is showing no signs of slowing down.
Gordon revealed last month he no longer takes days off, preferring daily sessions to avoid "seizing up", and his dedication is reaping rewards.
Barring a serious slump, he will surely be among the player of the year contenders come the end of the season.
Gordon's exploits are all the more arresting given he has rebuilt a career that was close to being curtailed in his early 30s by injuries that cost him three years of playing time.
His ability is such that the exceptional has become routine, the most recent example being his breathtaking triple-save to deny Livingston as Hearts eked out a 1-0 victory a week ago.
That prompted manager Robbie Neilson to bestow the "world-class" accolade, adding: "Craig pulled off some top-class saves - but that's par for him. He's just a top keeper."
Busiest in Premiership & 'up there' with Britain's best
Having been a rock in Scotland's surge to a World Cup play-off spot, earning the praise of Denmark counterpart Schmeichel along the way, Gordon's form on the domestic front has been just as impactful.
He has been integral to Hearts' smooth top-flight return, with Neilson's side having quickly made Tynecastle a fortress, their season-opening win over Celtic commencing an unbeaten home record.
Should they end Giovanni van Bronckhorst's flawless league start as Rangers manager with victory on Sunday, Hearts will be within six points of the Ibrox pacesetters.
Gordon makes big saves at big moments. When the sides last met, and Hearts snatched a last-gasp 1-1 draw through Craig Halkett, Rangers ought to have had a win long sewn up.
Gordon faced a barrage of 10 shots on target that day in October, tipping a Kemar Roofe shot on to the post and also denying Scott Wright, Ianis Hagi, Joe Aribo and then Leon Balogun twice in quick succession.
It tends to take something special to beat the Hearts custodian. No Premiership keeper has made more saves this season than Gordon's total of 75, Opta stats show. He also has the highest save percentage (83.2) and his haul of six clean sheets is bettered only by Celtic's Joe Hart on eight.
Neil McCann, the Sportscene pundit, says his former team-mate Gordon is "easily among the best" goalkeepers in Britain.
"He's not getting any younger - but he seems to be getting better," added McCann. That's an unbelievable accolade to have. He's maturing with age but his hunger is what I love."