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Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall: This is all a bit weird and unprecedented, but we all know football is not the most important thing

© SNSDavid Marshall and his Scotland team-mates applaud the Tartan Army after the win over Kazakhstan in November
David Marshall and his Scotland team-mates applaud the Tartan Army after the win over Kazakhstan in November

Scotland have not played a game since Wednesday November 19.

That four-month lay-off looks sure to be extended on Tuesday when UEFA sits to decide the future of Euro 2020 as coronavirus tightens its grip on football in Europe and beyond.

If, as expected, the tournament is put back 12 months, our play-off semi-final against Israel at Hampden, scheduled for a week on Thursday, will go into cold storage.

It’s an ideal situation for no-one.

But our last line of defence, David Marshall, is taking it all in his stride.

In the past few days, the Wigan Athletic keeper – who turned 35 earlier this month – has seen his club’s battle to avoid relegation put on hold.

However, until such times as he’s told that his international career has also ground to a halt due to the pandemic, he will be keeping himself ticking over with a training schedule designed to allow him to be at the peak of his form against the Israelis.

He is working under the assumption that the game will go ahead and he can’t wait for it.

Marshall told The Sunday Post: “Things are up in the air just now, and nobody can say with any certainty what is going to happen from one day to the next.

“But even though I will have no club football for the rest of this month, I’m very much of the attitude that I’m preparing properly for the Scotland game against Israel – unless somebody tells me different.

“To be honest, the lack of game time doesn’t really have too much of a negative impact on me.

“When we have played internationals in June in years gone by, I’ve usually gone into them having not played for a month, due to the English Championship finishing in the first weekend in May.

“Sure, I’d much rather be playing every week and have a normal routine, but it’s not too bad.

“Put it this way, I’m not overly concerned about the lack of games.

“I just hope that we get the game of football back to normality as soon as possible.

“For everything to be closed down right now is all a bit weird and unprecedented.

“But we all know that football is not the most important thing just now. The health and safety of every man, woman and child comes first.

“That’s my only real concern, as I’m sure it is for everyone.”

Marshall has re-established himself as the national No.1, and his 33 caps for his country have been won under the likes of Walter Smith, Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan and Craig Levein.

Steve Clarke is now the gaffer and Marshall is optimistic that qualification for a major tournament can be achieved for the first time since 1998 – whenever the semi against Israel and, all being well, final against either Norway or Serbia is played.

Marshall said: “Steve Clarke is an exceptional manager, and he has given the boys confidence since he took charge.

“We have not been together since November and no get-togethers have been arranged. But a rapport and understanding has built up in the squad.

“We feel we are in a good place and heading in the right direction.

“Of course, we all know that you are judged on results and that getting to a major Finals is what it is all about.

“For sure, reaching the Euro Finals would be the highlight of my career, the pinnacle.

“That is the aim and the ambition of us all. Let’s see if we can deliver. We really want to do it, be assured of that.”

Marshall is sure there is enough quality in the ranks to reach their goal.

He said: “I look at our squad, and we have plenty of talent.

“Look at the amount of players we have playing in the top flight in England, from Andy Robertson to John McGinn and Scott McTominay to John Fleck and Ryan Fraser.

“Those guys have been doing it every week, although injury has held some of them back a wee bit, and interrupted their rhythm.

“We also have Leigh Griffiths back playing on a regular basis for Celtic, and his return to form in the past five or six weeks has been an unexpected bonus.

“You can never have enough goalscorers in the squad, and if he gets back involved with Scotland, that will be a huge lift for him.

“He is a top player and nobody will forget the two free-kicks he scored for us against England.

“The squad is still due to be announced in midweek. But first, the game has to be going ahead.”

© Paul Currie/BPI/Shutterstock
David Marshall in action for Wigan Athletic

The likely postponement of the Israel tie could be a blessing in disguise for Clarke, as he was facing the problem of having to find a central defensive partnership to play in front of Marshall.

Scott McKenna and John Souttar are both injured long term, opening the door for the likes of Grant Hanley, Charlie Mulgrew, Declan Gallagher, Stuart Findlay and Liam Cooper.

Marshall said: “You would love every player to be fit and available, but that is never the case at international level.

“The gaffer knows he can rely on the full-backs, but it’s finding a pairing in the middle of the defence.

“There are some good ones out there and he will assess things before our next game.”

On a personal level, Marshall has enjoyed a good season at Wigan.

The Latics are fighting to pull clear of the relegation zone in the Championship but the Scotsman has been pulling off save after save.

The former Celtic, Norwich, Hull and Cardiff keeper said: “Listen, we’d love to be a few places higher, but we are where we are.

“We face a challenge every week but that’s the way I like it.

“I don’t want to be in a comfort zone. I want to be properly tested in every game.

“I’ve been happy enough with my form but there is always room for improvement.

“I work hard every day to get better and better for my club and my country. That will never change.”