SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan has admitted that the pressure is now on Allan McGregor to respond to David Marshall’s last two international performances as the battle for the No 1 shirt intensifies.
McGregor has long been regarded as the first choice for Scotland after re-establishing himself in the squad following the “Boozegate” episode with then Scotland skipper Barry Ferguson in 2009. However, a thigh injury sustained by the Hull City goalkeeper handed Marshall the opportunity to stake his claim nine years after making his Scotland debut.
The 28 year-old kept two successive clean sheets against the United States and Norway to erase memories of a difficult start to his Scotland career, when he conceded 15 goals in his first five caps spread over five years.
Now Strachan is being forced to consider his options as a scenario where two top goalkeepers fight it out for the jersey develops.
When asked yesterday whether Marshall is now putting severe pressure on McGregor to be a regular starter for Scotland, Strachan answered: “I think he is, yes”.
Strachan, who sold Marshall to Norwich City when manager at Celtic, described the goalkeeper as now being more sure of himself. Marshall is now back playing in the Premier League with Cardiff City and, after two solid performances for Scotland, faces consecutive games against Manchester United and Arsenal.
“We’ve had three clean sheets and David Marshall has been a part of that,” said Strachan.
“He now has a nice presence about him. I’ve known him a long time and he now has that presence that he didn’t have when he was younger. It’s not arrogance, it’s just a self-confidence that he has.
“He hasn’t changed off the pitch. He is still the same quiet, unassuming man. But there is now a presence on the pitch.”
Centre back Russell Martin believes Marshall’s displays have given Strachan a major dilemma. Martin played with Marshall at Norwich and stepped back into the side to partner Gordon Greer against Norway on Tuesday night after being left out against the United States.
“Marsh has been around the scene for a long time and he’s had to be patient,” said Martin. “He’s probably not got as many caps as he deserves because Greegs [McGregor] has been on top of his game for a long time and he is a fantastic keeper.
“But Marsh has come in against the USA and Norway and he’s done really great. I’m so pleased for him because he’s a good lad. He definitely given the manager a headache but they always say they like those kinds of headaches.”
Martin also defended the reputation of “Scottish” keepers after Celtic’s Fraser Forster received criticism for conceding two goals on his England debut against Chile on Friday night.
Martin has also played with Forster at Norwich when he was on loan at Carrow Road from Newcastle and described him as “one of the best keepers in Britain”. He added: “That’s regardless of if he plays in the Scottish Premiership or the English Premier League or abroad. He is just a top, top keeper.
“Marsh is the same and he’s proved that,” continued Martin. “Also, Greegs has been in great form so I don’t see where this criticism [of Scottish keepers] comes from. But I’m sure it’s not a problem for the boys because they’re getting the chance to show how good they are.”