Craig Gordon is the most expensive goalkeeper in British football history, but this modest 24-year-old knows there is some way to go before his feats rather than his fee are his main source of fame.
He excelled at Hearts, which earned him a £9m move to Sunderland in the summer. He has established himself as Scotland's No 1 during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. His heroics in the 1-0 win at home against France last year were particularly vital. And he goes into tomorrow's last, crucial qualifier – against Italy at Hampden Park – knowing Scotland need a clean sheet more than ever to give themselves a shot of beating the Azzurri and reaching their first major championship in a decade.
Yet for all the plaudits he has attracted in his native country, Gordon knows that until he graces the biggest of stages in a national jersey he will not have made the breakthrough he desires, or even, maybe, won the recognition of the Premier League-viewing public. "You have to have belief within yourself and say, 'I am going to show people'," he said yesterday. "They don't know my name down there [in England]. They've got Premier League stickers out and they've spelt my name wrong. They've got me down as Gordan. So obviously I have a bit to go yet."
Helping Scotland to victory would be a giant step, and his record suggests he will do his bit. Scotland have won all five qualifiers at home, scoring 15 goals and conceding three. One of those was a penalty, later adjudged by Uefa's disciplinary panel to have been unfairly won by Lithuania. One was a consolation for Ukraine in Scotland's 3-1 win. The third was by Georgia. The Faroe Islands (unsurprisingly) and France (astoundingly) were kept out entirely.
"Keeping a clean sheet is all I am looking at and why not?" Gordon said. "We have had a good defensive record and we have to look to keep that going. I'm sure the Italians will be looking at our home record."
He cites Andrea Pirlo and Luca Toni as Italy's major dangers, and would relish denying either. "I get pleasure in stopping people from doing what they want to do. You see players running away celebrating when they score and the feeling inside is similar for a goalkeeper when he stops a certain goal.
Gordon's opposite number tomorrow, Gianluigi Buffon, admitted yesterday that Italy's preparations had been overshadowed by the police shooting of a Lazio fan, Gabriele Sandri, last weekend. "I would be lying if I said that this situation has not affected us," Buffon said. "We wouldn't be human otherwise. If we are able to get a good result and qualify, we would dedicate it to the family of the victim."Reuse content