SHAUN Maloney remains happy with the decision he made to spurn England’s advances and stick with Scotland as the nation he wanted to represent.
The Wigan front man, who could have had his pick of four nations, was just a teenager at Celtic when former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson made an attempt to recruit him.
Eriksson had got wind of the fact that Malaysia-born Maloney’s father is English and tried to move in 12 years ago after the midfielder’s breakthrough season under Martin O’Neill.
Gordon Strachan will probably say a prayer of thanks when England run out at Parkhead tonight that Maloney struck to his guns to play for the country he grew up in.
His stunning winner against the Republic of Ireland on Friday was his second goal in two Euro 2016 qualifying games, and he’ll no doubt be hoping to make it three in a row against his dad’s homeland.
Eriksson asked Howard Wilkinson – who was then in charge of the English under-21 side – to call Maloney, who grew up in Aberdeen.
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But Maloney rejected their overtures by pulling on a dark blue shirt and playing for Scotland’s under-21s against Croatia.
Now, 36 caps and four goals later, he has very much settled into the Scotland set-up. He was voted Scottish PFA player of the year in 2006 and won five titles in his two spells with Celtic, on either side of a move to Aston Villa. He also won the FA Cup with Wigan.
Yet Maloney revealed recently that it’s not just England or Malaysia he could have been playing for, but also Wales. He told the Malaysian edition of Four Four Two: “My father is English and my grandmother was Welsh – but in the end it was the Scottish FA that really got in touch with me.
“It is obviously strange that I am not representing my country of birth in international football, but I grew up and went to school in Scotland, so it was always my big goal to represent the country. It is something that I am really proud of.
“You will always have an affinity with your country of birth. Malaysia will always be a special part of me.
“My dad was a helicopter pilot there, so I was there for four or five years before moving to Scotland.
“My family absolutely loved living there, but unfortunately my dad’s contract was not renewed and he was offered a job in Aberdeen instead.
“Because my mum was from Scotland, he took up the offer and that was it.” Maloney was asked by the Malaysian magazine on his feelings about players representing countries that they were not born in, such as Owen Hargreaves representing England instead of his native Canada.
But Maloney said: “Each circumstance is different. However, I do believe that there is too much negativity about it.
“If a person feels a strong allegiance to a country and feels proud to play for them, I think that should suffice. You cannot force someone to play for a country he is not proud of representing at all.”
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