ROBBIE NEILSON insists Craig Gordon can play on at Hearts for as long as he wants after revealing the club have opened contract talks with the evergreen goalkeeper.

Gordon turns 39 in just two months’ time but proved he is still at the top of his game with crucial saves at vital moments in Scotland’s wins over Israel and Faroe Islands to help keep the nation’s World Cup dreams alive.

The Tynecastle number one, who returned to his first club on a two-year contract in June last year, was back on the club’s training ground on Thursday morning to prepare for this weekend’s mouthwatering top-of-the-table encounter with Rangers at Ibrox.

He is sure to again be a key figure for the Jambos as they seek to maintain their impressive eight-game unbeaten run and, as the former Celtic and Sunderland player approaches the final six months of his current deal, Neilson admits the veteran is a reassuring presence he is desperate to retain for as long as possible.

“He had two really good performances and two really good results so he is ready to go,” said Neilson of Gordon. “That’s what Craig does, he is very steady with the simple things. Then he makes the exceptional looks easy as well. Hopefully he continues that with us.

“We’re keen to get him tied down. He has a clause in his contract and we’re trying to move forward on that. I don’t see it being too much of an issue here. He is very settled, his family stay around the corner, so hopefully we’ll get it done.”

Asked how long the contract was likely to be, Neilson added: “Fifteen years! As long as Craig wants to play he’ll be here, hopefully. He turns 39 later this year and he is still fit as a fiddle. So whatever Craig wants to do, we’re happy to facilitate it.

“He is playing in a good team just now and he gives us that base. When he is called upon he makes the save and you need that, and he gives the rest of the team that confidence as well.”

Hearts appear in bullish mood as they prepare to take on the champions in Glasgow. It has been the graveyard of game-plans and hopes for many a team through the year, but Neilson is convinced the Gorgie men do not have to alter the approach that has proved successful so far this season.

“We’re hoping to go there and win the game,” said Neilson, who will have John Souttar back available after injury. “But what will be will be. You know when you go to Glasgow that it’s always difficult. We’ve put ourselves in a good position and our aim is first to put on a performance, secondly take some points.

“If you go there on the front foot, you give yourself a chance. We have a plan to go there and play the way we always play. The team is playing well, so we go there to give it a shot.

“It’s a lot easier said than done! You go out saying, ‘we’re going to do this, this and this’. But then you’re playing against 11 international players who are very, very good, able to dominate the play in front of 52,000 fans.

“So we have a plan of what we want to do. It’s about implementing that. There will be times in the game when you can, times in the game when you can’t. But we’re positive going into it and we hope to play the way we’ve played so far this season.”