MANY have been busy mourning the lost age of the Scottish manager since news of Paul Lambert’s perhaps inevitable departure from Aston Villa in midweek. But have reports of the death of this phenomenon been exaggerated?
Contrary to reports stating no Scottish manager is now working in the top tier of English football for the first time since the mid-1980s, it is entirely possible one of this admittedly dying breed will be at the helm when the Barclays Premier League recommences following this weekend’s break for the FA Cup fifth round. Indeed, despite Lambert’s departure, Aston Villa will be led by a Scot(t) this very weekend.
Born in Edinburgh 41 years ago, Scott Marshall hails from a family of considerable sporting renown. His father, Gordon snr, kept goal for Newcastle United, Hearts, Hibernian and Arbroath, among others. Gordon jnr followed in his father’s footsteps position-wise – turning out for East Fife, Falkirk, Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell, also among others. He is currently goalkeeper coach at Motherwell.
According to Gordon snr, Scott bucked the trend by becoming a cerebral, ball-playing centre-half. “He is the clever one in the family, not like us daft goalies,” the 75 year-old said yesterday. “He got that from his mum.” The Marshall sporting prowess does not even end here. Daughter Lesley played basketball for Scotland on over 50 occasions.
“She has more caps than the rest of us put together,” pointed out Gordon, who, because of more stringent eligibility rules, could only play for England after being born in Surrey, where his father, a Gordon Highlander, was stationed at the time. He earned three under-23 caps.
As is clear, the Marshalls have quite a tale to tell. Scott’s promotion to interim manager at Aston Villa, the club whose very first manager, George Ramsay, was a Scot, is the latest chapter in a remarkable family narrative.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
Nevertheless, it is fair to assume many sports writers at his pre-match press conference yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s televised FA Cup clash with Leicester City were not fully aware of his credentials. Neither are they likely to be aware of his past as a member of the side on the only occasion Scotland have been within touching distance of a World Cup title, at any level.
“I still have the game on video,” said Scott’s father, of the Under-16 World Championship final in 1989 when Scotland lost to Saudi Arabia on penalties.
Scott certainly did not have the career anticipated by this high-profile adventure and moved to Arsenal, for whom he signed upon leaving Craigmount High School.
Injury hampered him for the most part, restricting him to just 26 appearances for Arsenal, and one goal.
He did have the unusual distinction of playing a single senior game in Scotland. While this might not mark him out as particularly special, what is possibly unique is that it was an Old Firm game. And not just any old Old Firm game either.
This particular one passed into legend for not altogether wholesome reasons. For Marshall, too, this 1999 clash proved to be a stain on his career. Drafted into Josef Venglos’ Celtic side after being recruited on loan from Southampton, he could not prevent Rangers, amid drunken mayhem in the stands that included a coin being thrown at referee Hugh Dallas, securing the 3-0 victory that sealed another league title.
“He was at Southampton at the time, and that was the time when his back was playing up as well,” recalled Gordon. “Rangers put the wee winger [Neil] McCann through the middle and Celtic only had the ten men after Mahe was sent off; Scott was never fast enough to catch McCann. It was a shrewd move by Rangers.
“Scott played alongside Stubbsie [Alan Stubbs] that day; it was him and Stubbsie at the back and Stubbsie was not all that fast either.
“I still have one of the cuttings from the papers. They slagged Scott off something terrible. I thought: if I ever find this boy. I still have the cutting, it’s in the drawer. I was feart to show Scott. That was his only game in Scottish football. They sent him back down the road to Southampton after that.”
Marshall’s career prospered ‘down the road’ even though he was forced to give in to a chronic back problem that saw him retire in 2004, at the age of just 31. His last stop was Wycombe Wanderers, where he was signed by former Arsenal team-mate Tony Adams. It was also there where he reunited with Lambert, who he played alongside in that single appearance for Celtic.
On Marshall’s return from Oman where he helped set up an Arsenal academy, he linked up again with Lambert at Norwich, then followed him to Villa.
The association was broken – for now – when Lambert was put out of what increasingly looked like his misery on Wednesday evening. “It’s murder when you see a man struggling so much,” said Gordon, who travelled to watch the recent 5-0 drubbing by Arsenal at the Emirates. It was then Gordon was introduced to his son’s assistant tomorrow, yet another Marshall. Although he too is a goalkeeper, Andy Marshall, the Villa goalkeeper coach, is no relation.
“Scott’s come in under the radar, people are saying who the hell is this?” said Gordon. “The only people who aren’t saying that is me and the dug!”
Rather than watch tomorrow, Scott’s father will go for a walk. “Otherwise I will end up throwing things at the telly,” he said. Remarkably, the Marshall goalkeeping genes are not yet at the end; 22-year-old grandson Murray Jackson could feature on the Spartans bench on Tuesday night in their Scottish Cup replay at Berwick. But, despite Gordon jnr’s Motherwell also having a critical game this afternoon against Ross County, the father is preoccupied with Scott’s fate.
“It’s like his second debut! He has got a chance to see what it is all about. He has had a year sitting alongside Lambert, seeing how it works. He says the hard part is handling the different egos. We will find out whether he has got it.”