Rough: Celtic can trust in Gord

THERE are many men who could emerge from the weighty shadow cast by Fraser Forster at Parkhead.

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Craig Gordon at his peak is a better goalkeeper than Fraser Forster currently, according to Alan Rough
Craig Gordon at his peak is a better goalkeeper than Fraser Forster currently, according to Alan Rough

Most of them at the same time given the giant Geordie's towering frame.

Yet there are few big enough, physically or mentally, who could take on the responsibility of continuing to provide the solid platform which Forster gave Celtic during his four years in Scotland.

First brought in back in 2010 from Newcastle, the 6ft 7in keeper has enjoyed a near-uninterrupted spell in between the Parkhead sticks, with Lukasz Zaluska - who was at the club first - rarely given any cause to think his glove rival's unshakeable grip of the No.1 shirt was ready to be prized open.

In any other circumstance, Forster's long-anticipated departure at the weekend, in a £10million move to Southampton, would have given the Pole some hope that his time in the Paradise sun may be about to arrive.

However, there is another sizeable figure tipped to put him back in the shade.

Craig Gordon's arrival in the east end during the summer heralded a new era for both club and keeper, with the former Sunderland man looking to get his career back on track after the early promise following his £9m move to Sunderland in 2007 turned sour.

Enjoying the limelight of the Barclays Premier League and the responsibility of being the steadfast rock at the heart of his nation's defence, a knee injury cut short his time with the Black Cats, with him being released in 2012.

Two years of anonymity followed for the keeper with the name once on everyone's lips.

Yet the road back from the brink is finally within grasping distance for the 6ft 4in Scot.

And, despite being the wrong side of 30, Scotland goal-keeping legend Alan Rough - a man who also did the double of playing for the Hoops as well as an Edinburgh side - has unwavering faith in the ability of the 31-year-old.

The iconic shot-stopper didn't hold back in his praise for Gordon, suggesting that he has it within himself to get back to his best and become the 'complete' keeper he once was, this time for Celtic.

He said: "Ability-wise before his injury Craig had everything. He's not had any knocks for a wee while so I think he's ready to go.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Craig was head and shoulders above everybody. The £9m move proved that.

"Allan McGregor and David Marshall have come in and stolen his place in the Scotland team but before the injury Craig was No.1, and No.1 by a mile.

"He was Scotland's saviour on many occasions, if he can recapture that form with Celtic he'll be knocking on Gordon Strachan's door to be his first choice.

"Celtic can still get the best of him. You never lose the ability, it's just all about getting games for him. It will come back naturally.

"It wouldn't take long for a class keeper like him to get back to where he was."

With Forster moving south to better himself, comparisons have been drawn between the Geordie and of the Gordon of old, who went to the Stadium of Light to shine in the Premier League spotlight.

That is the stage where Rough - who racked up more than 50 caps for his country - believes the former Hearts man perfected his craft, and the one where Forster must now follow suit in order to win the place in the England side he so craves.

Yet, the former Hibs legend is sure there is one clear winner if he was asked to pick between the keepers at the moment.

He said: "Craig has more experience than Fraser but Fraser is still a young guy with a lot to prove.

"Everything he did in Europe was super, but like everyone else he had the odd mistake here and there. I still think Fraser has a long way to go. He's on the up, though, and I'm sure he'll get there.

"I don't think he's hit his peak yet, but certainly Craig, at 100% fit, is the better goalkeeper. He just needs to get back there.

"When he went down to England he improved and got more physical. That's something Fraser will need to do, all the keepers down there are big lumpin' guys.

"When he was at Sunderland and playing for Scotland he was just the complete keeper. He did everything that was asked of him."

And that is exactly what Forster must do if he is to build on his ever-growing stature, only south of the border.

Gaining his first England cap last year and being included in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad were both landmark moments for the 26-year-old, and a move to Southampton will more than help his chances of cementing his place.

But Rough reckons Forster will be looking at his move to St Mary's as a stepping stone to bigger things, domestically and internationally.

He said: "I think at this stage, being associated with the England squad, he's had a taste of the players that are down there.

"I still think he has to prove himself. We all know the English don't particularly rate our league so they have seen what he has done in Europe and Southampton have given him the chance.

"I think he will see Southampton as a stepping stone to one of these bigger clubs, but he has to show his ability at that level first.

"He'll be wanting to hang on in that England squad and being at Southampton could be his gateway to more games. An avenue may appear for him eventually.

"Fraser will be in the public eye playing against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, and I'm sure Roy will be monitoring how he plays against better opposition.

"He may get better exposure playing for Southampton than a top team as he'll be kept busier.

"It's all right saying Fraser's played Champions League football against Barcelona, but the English Premier League is a lot stronger.

"I hope he does progress, he's still relatively young and has a lot to learn."

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