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Neil Drysdale: Richard Gordon looks back on his favourite Sportsound memories

Craig Brown meets Scotland fans before the opening game of the World Cup in 1998
Craig Brown meets Scotland fans before the opening game of the World Cup in 1998

It’s difficult to remember a time when Richard Gordon wasn’t an integral part of BBC’s Sportsound programme every Saturday.

Whatever controversy was raging around the Old Firm, new league structures, the often contentious decisions taken by the SFA or fans calling for the head of another hapless manager, you knew Gordon was there at the microphone; a voice of sanity with the ability to bring calmness to the racket and rancour.

After 30 years, he is leaving the spotlight on Saturdays, though he won’t be departing the BBC studios entirely and he has also joined the media team at Cove Rangers, while continuing to write a weekly column in these very pages.

But, after such a lengthy stint at the helm, I thought it might be a good idea to ask him about his most cherished memories from his Sportsound career – and, as you might expect, he responded with an eclectic selection.

We began with a look back at the last time the Scots qualified for the World Cup – in France in 1998 – and, even now, a quarter of a century later, it’s obvious he has, mostly, happy memories of that Gallic adventure.

He told me: “From the moment that the draw was made, this was the occasion we all wanted to experience.

“The previous 24 hours had been a nightmare, as I followed a France Telecom engineer around the stadium trying to persuade him to activate our technical facilities… but he eventually did, and that was all forgotten next day when the Scots marched out into the sunshine wearing their kilts.

“The match was as frustrating as Scotland games often are (they lost 2-1 in a pulsating encounter), but at least I can say that I’ve seen us score (with a John Collins penalty) against Brazil in the World Cup Finals.”

Lawrie rising to prominence

Gordon’s next recollection was of that enchanting late summer evening in Tayside when the then little-known Aberdonian, Paul Lawrie, rose to prominence following one of the most dramatic climaxes in golfing history.

Paul Lawrie won the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999.

He said: “Carnoustie was a new Open venue for me, but I loved it and I had the best seat in the house in our commentary box high above the 18th green.

“Little did I know it was to become one of the most incredible finishes the old
Championship has ever seen. Alongside the late, great Renton Laidlaw, I described the Jean van de Velde meltdown and, a couple of hours later, Paul Lawrie’s masterful play-off triumph.

“His 4-iron to the final green was among the best shots I have seen, and I don’t mind admitting a tear or two was shed as Paul lifted the Claret Jug.”

Helicopter Sunday

Gordon has the ability to depict momentous events without resorting to cliches or forgetting to keep sport in perspective. Yet even he was shocked by the fluctuating fortunes at the end of the 2005 Premier League campaign in what was subsequently billed “Helicopter Sunday”.

As he said: “I have covered a few nerve-shredding conclusions to Scottish football seasons, but the standout came in 2005.

“Rangers were cruising 1-0 at Easter Road, a scoreline which suited them and Hibernian (who would qualify for Europe), and Celtic were similarly comfortable, 1-0 up at Fir Park.

“They had missed big chances to increase their lead and had rarely looked
troubled at the back when (Motherwell’s) Scott McDonald cushioned a pass on his chest. The next few seconds unfolded in slow motion.

“The moment he hooked the ball over his head, you knew it was arcing over Rab Douglas’ despairing grasp and my attention was drawn to the Celtic dugout where Martin O’Neill and his staff crumpled to the turf.

“It was the perfect illustration of how football serves up euphoria and heartbreak in equal measures. What a moment!”

And McDonald scored again in the dying seconds as Celtic lost 2-1.

Waiting for Dons success

As somebody who wrote a book about the Gothenburg Greats and their heroics in beating Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Hamburg to lift the European Cup-Winners Cup and the Super Cup in 1983, Gordon had waited a long time to celebrate any Dons success in the 21st century.

But he was among the merry throng who saluted Derek McInnes’ side after they edged out Inverness Caley in the Scottish League Cup final in 2014, following a tense penalty shoot-out.

Adam Rooney scores the winning penalty for Aberdeen in the 2014 League Cup final.

He recalled: “Rarely, if ever, have I seen a display like the Dons fans put on at Celtic Park that afternoon. 42,000 of them turned up, all as desperate as I was to see Aberdeen finally win another trophy – one of just two they have collected since I first picked up a Sportsound microphone.

Lousy game, terrific outcome

“The game was, of course, forgettable, but the tension was palpable, particularly as we headed into the shoot-out.

“I found myself sliding lower and lower in my seat as Adam Rooney stepped up and the tears began to flow when he did his usual immaculate job from the spot. The next hour or so was among the favourites of my broadcasting career.

“I haven’t kept much in the way of recordings, but I have that programme, and the emotion in my voice is at times clear to hear.”

Gordon has been a ubiquitous figure at the biggest contests and has covered every Scottish Cup Final since 1992. And, while some have been foregone conclusions, others have offered great stories and no shortage of incidents and the 2016 denouement is etched indelibly in his mind.

He said: “Hibernian took an early lead (through Anthony Stokes), but with 10 minutes to go Rangers had turned it round and Hibs’ 113-year drought in the competition looked set to continue.

“But then, Stokes levelled, and with the game deep into stoppage time, David Gray headed a sensational winner. What an outpouring of joy and relief there was and once the trophy was lifted, the fans from the capital gave a rendition of Sunshine On Leith which will live with me forever.

“It was definitely one of those ‘I was there’ moments.”

Richard Gordon, who will be joining Cove Rangers for next season
Richard Gordon, who will be joining Cove Rangers for next season