CRAIG Gordon today revealed how almost being forced to give up playing by a career-threatening knee problem had helped him to make a rapid recovery from his latest injury.

Gordon returned to the Celtic first team several weeks ahead of schedule in a Ladbrokes Premiership match against Dundee at Parkhead on Wednesday night.

It was the 200th appearance the 35-year-old has made for the Glasgow club and, true to form, he marked the occasion by keeping his 100th clean sheet.

Afterwards, the Scotland keeper recalled how he feared he would never play another match as a professional, let alone 200 for a major club like Celtic, again during the two years he spent out of the game after being released by Sunderland back in 2012.

However, Gordon, who injured himself in the first-half of the Premiership fixture against Hibernian at Parkhead back in January, admitted that ordeal had actually helped him enormously during his latest extended spell on the sidelines.

“I’m 35 now so when these things come along, even if the worse-case scenario is that it’s career ending, it’s easier for me,” he said. “I’m not a young player anymore and I can deal with that. I’ve already had what could have been the end and managed to come back from it.

“So when that time comes when it’s the end of my career, either through my choice or through an injury, it probably doesn’t hold as much weight as it would for someone else because I have already been there and managed to get back.

“I’ve managed 200 extra games in my career and that’s just Celtic, not including internationals. It’s more than 200 from a time when I thought I wasn’t going to play another one, so whatever happens from now on is always going to be a lot easier to deal with.

“Did I think I’d play 200 games when I signed for Celtic? No. I was just reminded of it after the Dundee game when someone said to me: ‘Who would have thought you would have played 200 games when you signed?’

“It’s right enough. I don’t think anyone would have thought I’d have managed to do that. I’m maybe even in the same boat that I didn’t think it was possible. I hoped it would be, but it’s probably beyond my expectations when I signed. But I hope that I can go on and get a few more.

“At the end of that Hibs game, I got stuck on 199 appearances and 99 clean sheets. It was a few months waiting to get back for the two milestones and to do them both in the same game is quite satisfying for me. Fifty per cent clean sheet is a great record for any club in any league, so I’m proud of that.”

Gordon has been delighted by how well his recovery from the medial collateral ligament injury that he suffered against Hibs has gone and lavished praise on both the Celtic medical staff and his team mates Dedryck Boytata and Erik Sviatchenko for helping him get back playing so quickly.

However, he revealed that Brendan Rodgers and his backroom team had prevented him from suffering even worse damage by persuading him not to play on after he sustained the injury.

“It didn’t feel anything like what I’d done before,” he said. “I knew walking off at half-time of the Hibs game that there was something fairly seriously wrong.

“I wanted to try and come back out second half and they wouldn’t let me. Quite rightly so. They saved me from myself at that point by realising at that point there was something quite serious.

“It was only a few days to know exactly what was going on. Obviously, at that point, there is that worry it could be something else. I knew from the feeling it was my medial ligament. From having so many knee injuries, I’m quite good on my knees and what parts are where.

“I said to the physios as I walked off the pitch what the damage was and I was right. It was a case of that being confirmed to me. The only other thing was whether there was anything else that went with it. Thankfully, there wasn’t.

“My knee was in a brace for five weeks, so from four and a half weeks getting the brace off to playing is a really quick turnaround.”

Gordon added: “I’ve still done remarkably well to come back. It was great to get back only nine and a half weeks after the injury. After the scans, it looked as though it was going to be a lot longer than that.

“It was great work over the period of time. The physios have been great. It’s been a bit of a journey, but one we’ve done quickly.

“We’ve had a few players with similar injuries. Dedryck Boyata had an MCL. So did Erik Sviatchenko. It was good to talk to those guys about the rehab.

“Dedryck had come back pretty quickly from his, so he was a good support. It was good being able to speak to him and know the things I was feeling were normal at that stage and knowing it would get better.”

Dorus de Vries and Scott Bain have both had runs in the Celtic first team in Gordon’s absence and have helped Rodger’s side remain firmly on course for their second consecutive domestic treble.

The keeper acknowledged he will have to perform consistently well in the coming weeks in order to hold down his first team place.

“I’ve got a battle, absolutely,” he said. “Both Dorus and Scott have had game-time and Scott’s had a couple of clean sheets in his last two games and a few decent performances.

“I’ll need to work hard. I was happy with my personal performance against Dundee. After that amount of time out, I read the game quite well and that is always something that takes a bit of time coming back, so I was happy."