Craig Gordon has been written off before. The Hearts captain and Scotland No1 has faced plenty of injury adversity throughout his career and bounced back to reach new heights.

His latest horror injury setback, a double-leg break suffered in action against Dundee United in December, might've threatened the careers of some professional footballers, but not one with the steely determination evident in Gordon.

In fact, the Hearts keeper would welcome any doubters questioning his dedication to return for Hearts and Scotland - after all, he proved his detractors wrong in overcoming two years without a club as he battled through serious knee injury issues after leaving a turbulent time at Sunderland, latterly plagued by fitness issues.

"I'd love that. Do it, say it. Anybody, write it," Gordon, 40, smirked when asked his thoughts on being written off by some previously and potentially again. "I love that, that's great. Do it again, see what happens."

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The veteran keeper is back in the gym working on low-level movement exercises in his bid to return for club and country with a return next season in his sights even if that's nowhere near soon enough for himself.

He explained: “It’s going alright. When the guys come back for pre-season I’m hoping I might manage to get back outside and at least start that rehab process out there.

"I’ll not be joining in any of the pre-season stuff but just to be out there on the pitch is a step in the right direction.

“I go back to see the surgeon again in the middle of July and then I’ll take it from there and do what he says.

“It’s getting there. It’s still sore at times but it’s definitely improving. It was obviously a severe injury so I have to be careful. But I do feel it’s heading in the right direction and I just need to keep working hard and when I get to the stage I get the all-clear I want to be in the best possible shape to start then.

“It’s fine [dealing with the injury mentally]. You just have to shorten the goals and go and do the things you can in terms of getting to the next doctor’s appointment or scan, try and be able to do the exercises with a little bit more weight or reps.

“At times it feels like it’s taking ages and you're not getting anywhere but every now and again I do feel the progress has moved up a notch. I’m still happy with where it’s going.

“I keep asking the physios if I can get the gloves back on but they keep telling me it’s not time! I’ll keep pushing them and they’ll give in eventually. They’re absolutely right to keep the reins on.”

While no concrete timeline is in place for Gordon's playing return, the keeper admitted the commemorative friendly between Scotland and England in September has crossed his mind as an international comeback - with a spot in the Scotland squad in Germany for Euro 2024, should they qualify, a major goal.

"I’ll get back as soon as I can," he said when asked whether there are games he is targetting for a return. "I need to be at a level where I can go and perform and get back to where I want to be. There’s no one game, it’s as soon as I possibly can.

“England was mentioned but I’d need to be playing games before that to be in consideration.

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“It’s just about getting fit, getting training, joining in with the squad and hopefully being available for selection for Hearts then take it from there.

"I'd love to [go to Germany 2024]. That's always something at the back of my mind when I am in the gym and thinking that I need to push myself that bit more that if Scotland can get to another finals then I'd love to be part of that.

"A lot of work to be done for me to get back to that level and be able to try and get back into the squad but that is what I'm trying to do and I'll give it my best shot."

It's little wonder that Gordon represented the Scottish FA at Camstradden Primary School in Drumchapel to inspire children as part of the inaugural Week of Football.

If there was ever a player to demonstrate the strength and character to overcome adversity to achieve at the highest level - it's Gordon.

"I've had to fight my way back from injuries before," he said in a candid moment of reflection. "It is tough, but I think you have got to accept that it is going to be tough and fight against that. There are going to be days when you feel like giving up, you might feel that you are not good enough but you have to persevere, you have to keep going and push yourself through those.

"It's not an easy thing to do but there is light at the end of the tunnel if you keep going and practice long enough, try hard enough then you will get to your goals in the end.

"It's all about finding a way, it might not be a straight line you might have to go via different things or different options to get there. You might have to go to different clubs. There are different ways of getting to the top but never give up on that end goal."

Craig Gordon was speaking at Camstradden Primary, in Drumchapel, as part of the Scottish FA’s Week of Football.
Pupils took part in a creative writing competition called When I Played For Scotland, as part of Learning Through Football - a Scottish FA programme designed to support teaching and learning through the context of the national game. It is used by pupils and school across Scotland.