Keeping company with Kenny Dalglish in the Scottish international domain would be expected to puff up a player. Instead, it leaves David Marshall feeling a little sheepish. In earning his 30th cap against Russia on Friday night, now the Wigan keeper boasts a longer Scotland career span than the iconic Dalglish. As it stands, only three players – Denis Law, Jim Leighton and 19th century keeper Ned Doig – have a wider time frame between their first and last cap than Marshall.
Indeed should the 34-year-old, who debuted for his country in August 2004, retain his place for the next two years, as he seems in a position to do, he will eclipse Doig’s 16 years and seven months stretch. The former Celtic keeper isn’t doing cartwheels about the achievement, though, owing to the fact that in nine of the 15 years he has been an international he hasn’t actually earned any caps – the presence of the now retired Allan McGregor and, seemingly overlooked, Craig Gordon, as well as his own issues with selection and injury, seeing to that.
“It feels like [I’ve had one of the longest international careers]! Five games in ten years! [So] is it in terms of turning up? I don’t think it’s much of an accolade that anyone might try to build it up here…” said Marshall. “It was me, Craig and Allan McGregor for a long time, lads have chopped and changed but you just need to keep going, working hard and hoping the games come.
“I am [still really enjoying it]. I started really young, I was 19 when I started. I’ve enjoyed it. The first few years with Scotland was difficult, Craig was flying at the time, so I didn’t really play. I loved getting the two games in the summer, so hopefully it continues.”
Marshall excelled the other night. In doing so, he ensured the defeat that has surely ended hopes of Scotland qualifying for Euro 2020 through the standard group format wasn’t more painful than a 2-1 loss to a now effectively unsurpassable Russia. His task in replicating that contribution will be onerous when top-ranked side in world football Belgium take to the Hampden turf tomorrow. It is an assignment that will bring a certain oddness for Marshall with his firm friend and former Celtic and Scotland team-mate Shaun Maloney assistant to manager Roberto Martinez on the Belgian backroom staff. As teenagers the pair roomed together, and even back then Marshall glimpsed the cerebral, deep thinker that he was in no doubt would employ such attributes once his playing career was over.
“He was always going to be a coach,” said the keeper. “I ended up at Hull with him which was his last club as a player and he was always close with the manager there in terms of looking at sessions. I used to drive him to the training ground and I used to see him talking to Marco Silva on the pitch so he was always that guy that was going to do that. He is very confident in his own ability as well.
“It was only a few months to be fair. Marco came in in January and it was only until the middle of May but they seemed to get on well the two of them. Marco was excellent, the sessions were great and I think Shaun probably learned a lot in a short space of time.
“To get to the level he is at already is hard but I am not really surprised because he was always really knowledgeable about the game and always wanted to coach. He went to working with the kids straight away at Celtic [after he finished playing] too.”