IF SCOTLAND were casting for the role of lucky mascot, David Marshall would not be at the front of the queue for auditions.
Good fortune has proved cruelly elusive for the goalkeeper whose senior international career has spanned seven years but yielded only six caps.
Marshall has been on the losing side every time he has turned out for Scotland, conceding 17 goals in the process. Yet he has seldom been culpable for those defeats, on occasion even being Scotland’s best player, such as in the 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Holland at Hampden four years ago.
Now 28, he has found it difficult at times to live up to the hype which surrounded his spectacular breakthrough as a teenager at Celtic where he delivered a heroic display in their Uefa Cup triumph over Barcelona in 2004.
On the international front, his opportunities have been limited by the often exceptional form of first Craig Gordon and then in recent years Allan McGregor. But with McGregor absent, Marshall is set to feature for Scotland against Belgium at Hampden tomorrow night and Macedonia in Skopje on Tuesday.
John Kennedy, who shared in Marshall’s glory night for Celtic at the Nou Camp almost a decade ago, is confident his former team-mate can rise to the occasion against a Belgian side currently rated as one of the finest in the world.
Marshall has enjoyed a fine start to the domestic season in the English Premier League with Cardiff City and Kennedy says his top-flight status is long overdue.
“I played with David at both Celtic and Norwich City,” said Kennedy. “He is a top goalkeeper. He had to leave Celtic when he was still quite young but has done really well down south.
“I thought he might have got to the Premier League before now, maybe moved to a bigger club. But he’s had to bide his time. He was a big part in Cardiff’s success in getting promoted last season and he’s doing really well now.
“He will have a busy night against a top team in Belgium but I honestly don’t think Scotland are losing too much with Allan McGregor being ruled out. The country has another top class goalkeeper in David and I’m pretty sure he will be ready to step into Allan’s shoes.”
Kennedy’s own career was cut short at just 26 because of the knee injury he sustained on his Scotland debut against Romania at Hampden in 2004.
Now a scout and youth coach at Celtic, the 30-year-old is looking forward to another product of his club’s youth academy, winger James Forrest, making an impact for Scotland.
After watching him score the goal which took Celtic into the Champions League group stage last week, Neil Lennon questioned those supporters who continue to express reservations about the player’s talent. Kennedy is in no doubt about his quality.
“It’s just opinions,” said Kennedy. “You don’t just see it at Celtic, you see it everywhere. People have opinions on how teams play and they can be very mixed.
“As long as James is doing the business on the pitch and the manager is happy with him, that’s the most important thing.
“He has become a top player for Celtic and Scotland, and is performing very well on the big stage. I think a lot of him. I’m a massive fan of James.
“I’m maybe biased because he came through our academy but if we can produce more James Forrests, we will be very pleased.
“It did make me proud to see him score the goal last week. When you see a homegrown talent coming through to score a massive goal in a game like that, it gives you a buzz.”