Shaun Maloney pledges to make mark with Celtic and Scotland

AS he looks forward to his latest return from injury, Shaun Maloney would be excused for feeling he has as much to prove to himself as he does to prospective new Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

Sidelined since he limped out of Celtic's League Cup quarter-final defeat against Hearts at the end of October last year, with an Achilles injury which proved far more troublesome than initially expected, Maloney's career has never consistently reached the heights his undoubted ability has often promised.

But the 27-year-old attacking midfielder, once described by former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan as his "unfinished business", says the frustrations he has endured in the gym and on the treatment table have not diminished his conviction that he can become a major contributor for both club and country.

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Indeed, Maloney has set himself the target of endearing himself to not just one, but two managers next season. Unfazed by the lengthening list of potential midfield transfer targets being linked with Celtic, he spoke confidently yesterday of his prospects of becoming a first team mainstay for the Parkhead club under the next managerial regime, as well as playing a key role for Craig Levein in Scotland's Euro 2012 qualifiers.

"The players who have been mentioned as possible signings are all good players," said Maloney, "but I've got the self-belief I can be one of the starting 11.

"I'm fully fit now, so I'm in a good place at the moment. But I know that I've got a lot to prove to whoever my next club manager is and I've got a lot to prove to the new Scotland manager. That's part of the motivation that keeps you going.

"When you get an injury and it re-occurs, which happened with me last season, then it is a pretty unhappy time for a few days. But the way I look at it, I'm still very fortunate to do what I do for a living, so you can't get too down."

The unravelling of Celtic under Tony Mowbray last season was especially demoralising for Maloney to witness, given the highly impressive start to the campaign he had made under the former Hibs and West Bromwich Albion boss. Maloney's scintillating display was the highlight of Celtic's 3-1 win at Aberdeen on the opening day of the campaign but, sadly for both player and club, it provided false portents of Mowbray's reign.

"I was pretty happy with the way my form was going," he said. "Unfortunately, it got curtailed pretty early on. It was a tough season for everyone and I did get frustrated. I would get back training and then the injury would reoccur.

"I felt like I was almost back in the squad and then it was taken away again. But I don't know if the way the season was going was harder for me than the others. The players who were playing probably felt it more on a week to week basis.

"'We started pretty well and things were looking good, but then things started to not go as well as we had hoped.

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"Personally, if you look at the last 18 months or so, from when I got injured in December 2008, it's been a frustrating time. I want to strive for the consistency I need and hopefully it will come next season.

"We need to hit the ground running, although it needs to be sustained over a long campaign. It didn't continue last season and that's why we lost the league."

• Shaun Maloney was speaking at the launch of Celtic's summer coaching courses for children aged 4-16. Coaches and first team players will be attending 25 programmes across Scotland. For details call 0871 226 1888 or visit