Craig reckons Celtic can have a field day at home of Scottish rugby

CRAIG GORDON has less experience of being a Bhoy than anyone else in the Celtic squad which heads to Murrayfield tonight to face KR Reykjavik.

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Craig Gordon has played on Murrayfield's pitch several times for Hearts and trained on the new surface along with his team-mates last night
Craig Gordon has played on Murrayfield's pitch several times for Hearts and trained on the new surface along with his team-mates last night

However, where the 31-year-old keeper scores over everyone else in the Hoops camp is that he already knows what it is like to play at the home of Scottish rugby.

In fact, with seven appearances under his belt, no footballer anywhere can claim to have more knowledge of the Capital's most prestigious sporting venue than him.

Gordon was part of the Hearts side which staged European ties at Murrayfield against Braga, Ferencvaros and Schalke in 2004 and AEK Athens, Siroki Brijeg and Sparta Prague in 2006 when Tynecastle failed to meet the Uefa criteria.

He also lined up there against Barcelona in a friendly in 2007.

That could be a big positive for him in the battle with Fraser Forster and Lukasz Zaluska to be Ronny Deila's choice to keep out the Icelandic champions in this Champions League second qualifying round tie.

The switch to Murrayfield for the home leg of this round, and again if they make it through to the next stage of the qualifying process due to Celtic Park being seconded for Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony duty, is a step into the unknown for almost everyone in the green and white camp.

And you can be sure Gordon's extensive knowledge of the idiosyncrasies pertaining to the stadium has been fully accessed by his new team-mates.

The man who has resurrected his career after more than two years out of action due to a serious knee injury has been more than happy to tell them all he remembers about playing at the 67,000-capacity stadium.

Murrayfield now has a new playing hybrid surface, installed at a cost of £1.25million after the previous grass pitch became unstable after an infestation by nematode worms.

The pitch has been moved 10 yards. But the rest of the stadium's characteristics remain the same.

The Hoops players got a taste of it when they trained there last night, but it will be a different experience when the fans start to occupy the stands.

And Celtic are hopeful there will be a crowd in excess of 40,000, with only a handful of those backing KR.

Gordon said: "It was strange playing at Murrayfield for Hearts because we didn't have the support to fill it.

"We got close to doing that (57,000) against Barcelona in a friendly.

"I think the Celtic fans will perhaps not fill it, but they will go there in numbers and make a good noise and a create a good atmosphere.

"I think the crowd will be bigger than what Hearts got, so that will certainly help.

"The new surface being down will be interesting as well. That will be different from the last time I played there."

Gordon continued: "As a stadium it is a great. I've been there for rugby matches as well, and, when it is full, it can make for a really good atmosphere.

"So, as far as the stadium is concerned, it will be alien to the players, but, it's good to play in.

"And, if we can fill it, or get close to filling it, that will make a difference."

Whether he is on the pitch, on the bench or in the stand, Gordon knows how important a tie this is for Celtic.

With a 1-0 lead from the first leg, a clean sheet for whoever is selected to play in goal will ensure a place against either St Pat's or Legia Warsaw in the next round.

The more games Celtic have to play, the more opportunities Gordon will have to impress, as he did when he made his debut for the first half against Dymano Dresden at the weekend.

Having come so close to seeing his career end prematurely due to the knee ligament injury he sustained while at Sunderland, Gordon is driven to grab this second chance.

He said: "I want to play as many games as I possibly can.

"For me to be here at all is an achievement after the injury nightmare I have had.

"I'm grateful to have this opportunity, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to play as many games as I can.

"It's about me managing my body now. I'm over 30 and, hopefully, I still have a long career ahead of me.

"If I manage things right, I should be okay."

Gordon is confident his body is once again fit for purpose and said: "I have had those challenges and everything has been fine. so the injury is something I am now not thinking about."

He is more focused on another huge challenge which faces him - dislodging Forster.

Deila has made it clear that, despite the giant Englishman having made the spot his own for the past three seasons - particularly excelling in the big European games - he wants to see the pair of them fight it out.

"It will be tough," conceded the man who has 40 Scotland caps to his name and is looking to add even more.

"Fraser has had a fantastic couple of seasons here. But that's why I have come here, to challenge myself against the best.

"Fraser is the best playing in this country at the moment, certainly.

"It's a great challenge for me to train with him and push him all the way and get as many games as I can."

The future of England international Forster and of central defender Virgil van Dijk will remain uncertain until the transfer window closes.

But fielding them in the qualifying rounds of the European competitions - as Deila did last week in the opening tie in Reykjavik - is no indication they are staying, nor a bar to them moving.

Uefa rules state that players can appear in these games without necessarily becoming cup-tied, as Teemu Pukki did last year for Schalke before his move to Celtic.

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