Hibs youngster Murray Johnson reveals how 'humble' David Marshall helped him prepare for European tie

Heading onto the European stage, Murray Johnson does not need to scratch around for a role model.

Instead, Hibs’ 17-year-old goalkeeper, who along with the rest of last season’s U-18 league champions will take on Molde in the UEFA Youth League first round tie on Wednesday, has the opportunity to train alongside a man who served up a notable teenage Euro showing of his own.

The fact that David Marshall’s 2004 man of the match performance for Celtic against Barcelona came months before his young colleague was even born does not dilute the enormity of that performance or the impact of the veteran keeper’s advice.

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Thrust into goal for a return leg at the Nou Camp, with Celtic looking to protect a 1-0 advantage, the then 19-year-old keeper produced one top-class save after another to help the Parkhead side through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.

Goalkeepers Murray Johnson and David Marshall during Hibs training. Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group
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But, tapping into that experience and the knowledge gleaned from so many more European nights as well as 47 Scotland caps, his advice to the young Hibees before they headed off to Norway was pretty simple.

“The main thing he said was to go and enjoy it,” said Johnson. “He was obviously a young keeper playing in Europe and he handled himself more than well enough. He has been there and done it so, for me, any advice I get from him is very, very valuable.

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“There is a reason why he has been up there at that level, doing it year after year. He tells me wee things in training but even talking to him in the canteen is great and anything I can do to learn off him is massive for me as a young goalkeeper. I want to get to the levels he got to so the more advice I can take on board from him the better.”

But, while Johnson is well versed on Marshall’s exploits, he says that isn’t down to the man himself.

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“He is a very humble man. I think he got man of the match that day [in Barcelona] but he doesn't really want to hear about it. He is very, very humble, which, to me seems crazy. If I was him I doubt I would be so humble.

“He does speak very well about his experiences, though, if you ask him.

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“Marsh has been great for me. I think when he first came in everybody quickly realised that he would be a very, very good mentor for us young lads. But, for me, being a goalkeeper that is especially true. I lean on him all the time for advice and his experience speaks for itself. He has played a number of times in Europe so he is a great help. He obviously isn't over here with us but I have asked him loads of questions about it and he has tons and tons of experience and knows what it is like and what to expect.

“It has been a real privilege to work alongside him.”

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Up against a Molde side, which will include a number of first team players, Johnson can expect plenty of involvement but the youth team’s league success last term, allied to his recent loan spell at Airdrie, and a Scotland U-19 call-up have bolstered his own belief.

“Airdrie was brilliant for me. It came out of the blue a little bit with the emergency loan side of things and it was a big step for me. Playing League One as a 17 year old goalkeeper was a little bit daunting, especially when I first started, but I eased into it and it went really well.

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“Everybody at Airdrie was excellent with me and they are due a lot of credit for that and for taking me there in the first place and putting a lot of faith in me. It has helped me massively. Playing at stadiums like East End Park against Dunfermline, at home against Falkirk, in front of big crowds. It was a learning process, learning how to manage that expectation, manage the game, manage the crowd a little bit as well, which was something I hadn't had to do before. So, I will be leaning on that experience in this game and in the games to follow because it was a massive step for me and I think I managed to deal with it pretty well. I can take a lot of confidence from my performances.

“Any time you get selected for the national team is a massive honour and the 19s is a great age group to be a part of. It has been a great year so far for me, getting that experience on loan and then being picked to play for the [Scotland] 19s. I feel I have been doing reasonably well, which is pleasing, and I am just looking to take confidence from all these things.”

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And keep listening and learning from the likes of Marshall.

That mindset will be important as the young Hibs side head out looking to surprise Molde before seeing things out in the second leg at Easter Road at the beginning of October, and booking a place in the next round of the tournament.

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“We are all young and for a lot of lads it is the first experience of playing in Europe so we know that will bring pressure. The main thing for me and all the lads is to just remember all the hard work we put in last year to get us to this point. Of course, we will be nervous before the game, everyone gets nervous before games, but most importantly we have to then go out and enjoy it. There is no point in coming here and wasting the opportunity by being too nervous or uptight.

“We won the league because ultimately we are a good team. Now we have got to go out and showcase our talent.”

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