WHEN David Marshall seemed single-handedly to defy Barcelona at the Nou Camp ten years ago in only his second senior start, his Celtic manager Martin O’Neill said afterwards there could be no guarantees that the teenager’s first major outing would not also prove his most memorable. When Marshall made some magnificent saves against world champions Germany in Dortmund last Sunday, the Cardiff City keeper did more than ensure he will retain the No 1 jersey for his country; he created a rival for his No 1 display in mainland Europe.
The man who afforded Marshall the opportunity to show his class as a 19-year-old in Catalonia, Robert Douglas, now delights in the 29-year-old following in his footsteps at international level. Douglas, who earned 19 caps, believes the Scotland manager Gordon Strachan’s “biggest headache” is selecting his keeper. He puts that down to “the calibre of goalies” the country has courtesy of the “three-way fight” Marshall is now in with Hull City’s Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon, the keeper who took over from Douglas at international level and is now the Celtic first pick, as Douglas was for three years.
In March 2004, O’Neill lost the services of his keeper at half-time of the Glasgow first leg of a Uefa Cup tie against Barcelona because, as the 42-year-old put it yesterday, “myself and Bobo [Balde] formed a tag team in the tunnel”. A punch-up then resulted in Douglas and Barcelona’s Motta being dismissed and unavailable for the Catalan return leg.
“It was sink or swim for him that night. I lost my appeal and Marshy went in. You wanted him to do ok – but he was sensational,” Douglas said. “That’s his temperament shining through. I couldn’t say anything to him that night and still can’t – he’s played at the Nou Camp and I haven’t. I did say don’t try and change anything or chase the game. That night in Barcelona I was one of the proudest guys around for him. If it had ended up 9-0 then it would have been mine or Bobo’s fault for being sent off in the first leg. But the main thing was he came through unscathed and went on to better things.”
How much better he demonstrated in Germany in midweek and last season proving himself as adept as any keeper in the English Premier League in sparing an eventually-relegated Cardiff City from some real trouncings. For Douglas then, Marshall was no surprise selection in the Euro 2016 opener helping Scotland emerge with only a 2-1 loss.
“I don’t think Marshy has done anything to lose the jersey,” Douglas said. “He’s been in and has been consistent and it’s his to lose for the long term. He had a long period when he didn’t make the bench.
“Then he had a period when he lost a few goals and that was hard for him. Last season was like the Alamo and he shone and that’s why clubs looked at him. He made big saves at big times and he’s settled there with his wife and family and maybe that’s the only reason he stayed. He carried that form into Sunday night.
“Had he made mistakes there would have been a call for Greegsy or Craig – that’s life as a goalie. You are always under major scrutiny. He did everything superbly well. He has grown into a Scotland jersey. I think Gordon Strachan and Jim Stewart [the goalkeeping coach] will have had discussions and my view is that Marshy is in there on merit and it’s his to lose. He made saves and kept us in the game.
“He’s a steady goalie, not flash and he looked comfy in Dortmund. He’s a lovely guy, Craig took over from me and is a smashing guy and I’ve met Greegsy on a few nights out – they are all good goalkeepers and are a credit to Jim Stewart and their club coaches.”