Arsenal target Gordon is 'better than Robinson'

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The Independent Online

Moving to north London can have a dreadful effect on a young goalkeeper's reputation. So Craig Gordon would do well to resist any thoughts of a move to Arsenal just yet. The Scotland goalkeeper won the admir-ation of Arsène Wenger in a week when Paul Robinson was losing the faith of a nation, but what Gordon really has his eye on is a place at Euro 2008.

He and Scotland appear to be on an upward spiral after a productive week justifying his promise in front of Thierry Henry and Andriy Shevchenko. It would be little surprise if the Heart of Midlothian goalkeeper is earning his living in the Premiership alongside them when the finals are played in 18 months.

Wenger was perhaps the only satisfied Frenchman to leave Hampden Park last Saturday, after he had witnessed Gordon defy his country and his own talisman, Henry. "It is not the first time I have heard about him but that is the first time I have come to watch him in person," said the Arsenal manager. "He definitely has the potential to play at a higher level. He has presence and good handling and looks a very good goalkeeper to me."

Shevchenko would probably agree. Chelsea's £31 million man warmly congratulated the Scot after Ukraine's 2-0 win in Kiev in midweek, which still leaves Walter Smith's side at the top of qualifying Group B alongside France. Shevchenko was thwarted by Gordon on numerous occasions, and needed a last-minute dive to earn the penalty that finally allowed him to score.

Scotland, though, are no longer a joke team now that Smith is in charge, and Gordon has ensured that joke goalkeeping is someone else's problem. Indeed, a former French international goalkeeper, Gilles Rousset, who spent six years with Hearts, believes Gordon is already the best keeper in Britain.

"I don't think Paul Robinson is as good as him, even though he plays for England," said Rousset, who now coaches goalkeepers for the French champions, Lyon. "Craig is one of the most talented keepers in Europe and has the potential to be a big, big star.

"I think he is probably the best keeper in Britain. I remember him as a smashing young lad looking after my training kit. Technically, he was very good even then but was very, very slim and, although he's built up his body since then, he still needs to work on that. However, he has been magnificent for Hearts for three or four years now, yet he is still only 23 and still learning.

"What Craig needs now is to play more international games, and play more games in Europe with Hearts. That would be a massive help in his development. He has great technique, and I can see him staying Scotland's goalkeeper for the next 12 years."

Gordon is under contract at Tynecastle until 2009, and Hearts have already rejected a bid from the Italian club Palermo for their goalkeeper. "It is nice that somebody like Arsène Wenger is backing up what we think," said John McGlynn, the Hearts coach. "No doubt, as Craig matures, he'll want to try that level, as he's an ambitious guy."

Smith has a track record of working with good goalkeepers. He had Chris Woods and Andy Goram - an England and a Scotland international - during his time at Rangers, and the Scotland manager's faith in Gordon, who has swiftly assembled 19 caps, is understandable.

"The manager said to us after the Ukraine game that there is absolutely no criticism from him," Gordon reflected. "We gave everything we had and we just came up against a better team. We got greedy after beating France and we wanted another three points, but we are still in with a chance of qualifying."

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