DAVID Marshall would be in little danger of contradiction if he declared that no-one would savour a Scotland victory tomorrow night more than him. A clean sheet in Macedonia’s Philip II Arena would be a welcome bonus.
The Cardiff City goalkeeper’s eye-watering statistics as an international footballer now stand as follows: Played seven, lost seven, goals conceded – 19.
Those seven appearances have been stretched over a nine-year period, beginning with his debut as a teenager under Berti Vogts in a 3-0 friendly defeat by Hungary and stretching through to Friday night’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Belgium at Hampden.
In between times, his sporadic appearances have come as back-up to first Craig Gordon and then Allan McGregor, unfortunately often coinciding with a hapless defensive performance in front of him.
The 28-year-old manages to remain philosophical about his apparently cursed international career, even making a joke about the number of squads of which he has been an inactive part throughout the reigns of six managers.
“I was thinking about it the other day,” says Marshall. “Now that Kenny Miller has retired, I’ve probably been in more squads than any other player here. But you don’t get into the Hall of Fame for that!
“Unfortunately it’s just the way things have gone. In the games I’ve played we’ve not had very much joy. Hopefully, though, we can get a result on Tuesday. I’m just here for when the gaffer calls upon me. In terms of losing games, it’s been disappointing but I try and focus on how I performed and get on with it.
“You obviously want to win games as a football player, especially for your country. But I’ve been reasonably happy with how I’ve played personally whenever I’ve been asked to play.
“It’s hard to remember the first one for Scotland now, it was nine years ago. You can always improve and if I looked back at the games I’m sure I could have done things better. But I’ve not had that many games with Craig and Allan being around.
“I watched Craig play for Scotland for four or five years and I don’t think he made a mistake. When you have someone like that ahead of you, all you can do is bide your time. It was the same when Allan came in after Craig picked up injuries.
“I was unfortunate that, when Craig got injured, I wasn’t playing at Celtic. But when it’s your country you just need to be patient. At club level you can try and move on if you’re not getting a game but when it’s Scotland you’re just happy to be in the squad really.
“It’s been a long time and I’ve not played as many games as I’d have liked. It is a lot of travelling, especially when you’ve got kids and family. But deep down, I don’t think I ever considered giving up on it.
“Obviously Craig and Allan were in the squad together at one stage, but not for that long. I’ve always been in and around it. You are just happy to be here, so you don’t really think about that. I know it is time away but you just have to get on with it.
“I feel in most of the matches I’ve done fine but the disappointment is that I want to win with Scotland. It would be huge for me on Tuesday if we could get a victory.”
McGregor was certain to miss the Belgium match because of suspension, but the Hull City goalkeeper’s subsequent withdrawal from the squad with a groin injury has provided Marshall with a double opportunity to break his Scotland duck.
“Going into the game on Friday, I just wanted to give the gaffer a problem by playing well,” added Marshall. “Both Allan and I are playing Premier League football in England now but I don’t think that makes too much difference.
“It has always been like that for me. Even at club level with Celtic, I had Artur Boruc in front of me, so it is frustrating and you think you aren’t going to progress in your career if you aren’t playing at club level.
“Pressure as a goalkeeper is similar anyway. Even if you do well, you might be back out next game so you have to put that to the back of your mind.
“I played under Gordon Strachan at Celtic, so he knows what I can do. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve done throughout my whole career… keep my head down and hope to take my chance when it comes. As a goalkeeper, you can’t go chasing crosses or making saves unless you need to. But I was delighted to get the nod. I know the gaffer and [goalkeeping coach] Jim Stewart have a lot of faith in me, so it’s just about repaying that.
“I thought we did okay against Belgium. We didn’t create too many chances – their goalkeeper didn’t have very much to do – but they’re a good team. I don’t think our performance was too bad to be honest. We were just disappointed by the final result really.
“Defensively, we have picked up as a team recently. Grant Hanley and Russell Martin have done well in central defence. We did really well when we won in Croatia, then against England they scored one of their goals when Grant was off the pitch injured.
“I know we lost 2-0 to Belgium, but they didn’t really cut us open. And they only scored their second goal late in the game when we were chasing it. Personally, I felt comfortable in the game.”
Marshall insists Scotland do not lack incentive against Macedonia tomorrow with the players keen to avoid the stigma of finishing bottom of Group A.
“I think that is a motivation,” he said. “We had a change of manager and the bad start to the group hasn’t helped. But the last three games have been positive in terms of performances, so coming over here it would be great to get a win. Nobody wants to finish bottom of the group, especially for seedings in the future. More teams qualify for the next European Championship in 2016, so we want to finish as high as we can.”
• Scotland 0-3 Hungary (friendly) - 18 Aug 2004
Szabolcs Huszti scored twice and Steven Pressley blasted a clearance off Marshall and in.
• Scotland 1-4 Sweden (friendly) 17 Nov 2004
Marcus Allback (2), Johan Elmander and Fredrik Berglund before a James McFadden penalty.
• Norway 4-0 Scotland (World Cup Qualifier) 12 Aug 2009
John Arne Riise, Morten Gamst Pedersen (2) and Erik Huseklepp sank George Burley’s ten men.
• Scotland 0-1 Netherlands (World Cup Qualifier) 9 Sep 2009
A late Eljero Elia goal ended Burley’s World Cup dream.
• Wales 3-0 Scotland (friendly) 14 Nov 2009
Goals by David Edwards, Simon Church and Aaron Ramsey.
• Serbia 2-0 Scotland (World Cup Qualifier) 26 Mar 2013
Two goals by Filip Durici left Scotland bottom of Group A.
• Scotland 0-2 Belgium (World Cup Qualifier) 6 Sep 2013
Goals by Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas for the Group A leaders.