IT isn't easy to miss Craig Gordon.

At 6ft 4in he's taller than the average footballer, let alone way taller than the average Scot. He's got a bit of presence about him.

Anyone's who played 40 times for Scotland and represented his country for more than a decade carries a natural authority.

He also happens to be one of the most expensive footballers this country has ever produced. The £9m Sunderland paid to take him from Hearts in 2007 was a British record fee for a goalkeeper. It remains one of the five biggest deals involving any Scottish player.

All of which begs the question: how on earth did Rangers let him slip away? Around Ibrox, where ownership deal after ownership deal has gone haywire in a seemingly never ending sequence of ruinous "business", they passed up the opportunity to sign Gordon for buttons when he was under their noses.

In the catalogue of mistakes and misjudgements the club has been guilty of, not signing Gordon barely registers in the top 200, but it is no less galling for their beleaguered fans to see Celtic reap the benefits of a player Rangers helped to rebuild.

He is the most impressive goalkeeper in the SPFL by a distance. There are plenty around Parkhead who quietly believe Gordon, still just 31, will soon prove himself superior to the £10m man he replaced, Fraser Forster. Imagine the anguish around Rangers if he follows the Englishman south in a year or two for a multi-million fee.

On the face of things the Gordon-at-Rangers episode looks baffling. The goalkeeping coach at Ibrox, Jim Stewart, was instrumental in bringing him to the club more than a year ago so he could use the facilities at Murray Park and continue his rehabilitation from long and career-threatening injuries. Knee problems had marginalised Gordon almost entirely and his livelihood was in grave danger of slipping away. He did media work and some coaching with Dumbarton before the offer of help came from Rangers.

Stewart had worked with Gordon for Hearts and Scotland. The generosity was enthusiastically embraced and Gordon trained there day in, day out. He worked away in the gym: sometimes alone, sometimes with Rangers' medical staff, sometimes with some of the club's other players.

At no point during any of that, even towards the end of the season when he felt ready to return to a game he had not graced for two years, did Rangers make a move to offer him a contract.

They had enough goalkeepers. Cammy Bell, Steve Simonsen and Scott Gallacher all featured last season. Liam Kelly was on the books too and in August they signed Lee Robinson as cover. From the start, Rangers' position was that Gordon was using Murray Park's facilities without any sort of understanding that there may be a contract offer at the end of it.

"The possibility of me joining Rangers was talked about but nothing was ever finalised or offered," he said yesterday. "I think their priorities lay elsewhere and in my view probably quite rightly so.

"That was their choice. They went the way they saw fit and personally I think they probably made the right decision.

"I was there most of last season working with their physios and doctors and trying to get myself to a level of fitness where I could compete again and go back out and play. Thankfully, towards the end of the season, I managed to do that and then it was a case of trying to get myself a job. Would I have signed for them? Who knows? Until it was presented to me then I don't know what I would have done.

"The move came through Jim Stewart who was my goalkeeping coach when I was 15 and signed my first contract at Hearts. Jim worked very hard to get me my first contract and we obviously worked together at Scotland and at Hearts for a long time. We had that friendship and he wanted to try and help me get back to fitness. There were no guarantees it would even work and that I'd get fit again. We said I'd give it a go and see what happened. Their help was invaluable. Without the physio, Steve Walker, I might not be where I am right now."

Towards the end he did some work with Rangers' young goalkeepers, passing on advice if he could, but much of his year there amounted to a solitary pursuit. It was difficult being around a football club when he couldn't train or play with the others.

"It can be quite a lonely place at times. Everyone was outside training and working away. There might have been one or two other injured lads but it's not an easy thing to go through and mentally get yourself up for training when it's only for yourself. There wasn't any money to be earned. It was just a question of whether I could get back to doing what I want to do."

He felt ready to return earlier this year, a fact which soon became known around football. A new source of stress began: where would he find a way back into the game?

Soon he had a choice between playing first-team football at a lower level or accepting an invitation to come to Celtic and join a queue behind Forster and Lukasz Zaluska.

"I didn't know where I'd fit back in. I didn't know how fit I was going to be. I didn't know what level I'd be in terms of ability. If things hadn't gone so well, even if I was fit, I might even have had to go part-time somewhere to get back in. I had teams on the phone from the Irish league and part-time. I'm thinking 'is that the level I'm going to go back in at?'

"Also, would I still be good enough to impress at that level and would I get stuck there? These are all things I had to think about.

"I decided to try and go to the highest level I could even if I wasn't first choice straight away."

Celtic gambled and have been rewarded with the return of an outstanding goalkeeper. He has been authoritative and consistent since day one.

"It feels good to be back and when you make a contribution to the team it feels good. It's not just in training but when you go out and play games it gives you a sense of worth among your team-mates.

"I've been fortunate to end up at a great club and my fitness is close to what it was before. I've managed to pick up where I left off. It all just fell into place. It wasn't by design."

How would he feel if Celtic drew Rangers in tonight's League Cup semi-final draw? "It's a fixture I'd like to experience at some point in my career and when it comes along, great. But until it happens, it's hypothetical." A safe answer from the safest goalkeeper in the country.