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Former Celtic goalkeeper David Marshall admits he’s glad it wasn’t the current Barcelona team he faced

Scotland's David Marshall (SNS Group)
Scotland's David Marshall (SNS Group)

BEING thrust on to the big stage can do one of two things to a young footballer – make him or break him.

Just ask David Marshall.

The Scotland goalkeeper was an unknown teenager when he was shoved into the Nou Camp spotlight for the decisive leg of Celtic’s 2004 UEFA Cup tie against Barcelona.

Ninety minutes and one heroic performance later, everybody knew his name.

More than 12 years have passed since that unlikely clean sheet turned Marshall from zero to hero.

A new crop of Celtic stars hope to emulate him on Tuesday when the Bhoys open their Champions League campaign in Catalonia.

And Marshall, now plying his trade as the newest member of Hull City’s Scottish enclave, knows exactly what it could mean to those that succeed.

“Looking back at it, I think that game gave me the chance to move down south,” says the 31-year-old.

“If I hadn’t played that game I’d have been seen as maybe someone who would only get a chance on loan at a club in Scotland. The Barcelona game changed that.

“Peter Grant took me down to Norwich from Celtic. He had kept an eye on things.

“I had that experience in the Nou Camp, and the more experience you get, the bigger the stuff you can handle.

“It seems a long time ago now, but I’m glad it was that Barcelona team we faced rather than the one Celtic are going to face on Tuesday.

“It takes me back every time I see them drawn against Barca. It always seems to happen.

“The good thing is there’s no pressure on Celtic now. It’s just good that they’ve qualified and have great games coming up.”

Qualification is something Marshall is striving for himself after helping get Scotland’s World Cup campaign off to a winning start in Malta.

That 5-1 victory in the Mediterranean heat, aided in large part by a Robert Snodgrass hat-trick, was one he relished.

But it also whetted his appetite for getting into the swing of things in the Premier League with Hull, where he will link up with Snoddy and fellow Scots Allan McGregor, Andy Robertson, and Shaun Maloney.

“Snoddy has had a great start to the season, so to get a hat-trick at international level is brilliant,” says Marshall.

“He’s been through a really bad injury, so it probably means that bit more to him too.

“It should be good to join him and the rest of the group at Hull. I’m looking forward to it.

“I’ve known Shaun Maloney for years, since our Celtic days, and the other lads from Scotland squads, so that familiarity will be there.

“I had it when I first went to Cardiff, when wee Chris Burke and Gavin Rae were there.

“It helps to have that at a new club.

“I got a taste of the Premier League a couple of years ago with Cardiff. But this is the first year I’ve had the chance to get back to that level.

“Hull are a big club and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

 

Celtic rookie David Marshall pulls off a stunning save from Luis Garcia to cap a man of the match performance at the Nou Camp, 2004 (SNS Group)
Celtic rookie David Marshall pulls off a stunning save from Luis Garcia to cap a man of the match performance at the Nou Camp, 2004 (SNS Group)

Having taken the Scotland jersey from Craig Gordon, Marshall will step in for the injured Allan McGregor at Hull.

The dog-eat-dog nature of goalkeeping isn’t lost on him.

After a dozen years spent pulling on the gloves, how could it be?

As such, it’s something Marshall is philosophical about, though his take on the subject is laced with empathy for his sidelined colleagues.

“There’s only one place in the team. It is tough, a lonely place at times, being a goalkeeper,” he says.

“I am close with Craig and you’ve seen what he’s been through to get back to where he was. We were speaking about it in Malta.

“It can be hard at times. When you are left out of the team, you can’t get that 10, 15 minutes to come on like an outfield player does as a substitute.

“Even if you do well in training, a lot of it is down to the other goalie. All you can do is keep yourself right.”

For the modern goalie, “keeping yourself right” seems to require increasing focus on passing the ball on the deck.

England keeper Joe Hart suffered for his apparent weakness with the ball at his feet by being bombed out of Manchester City this summer.

Marshall has yet to encounter a manager who believes his goalkeepers need to have an outfield player’s touch.

But he admits it’s a trend that shows no signs of receding, even if he can’t quite get his head around it.

“It is a bit strange. It seems to be something that’s blown up a lot this year,” he says.

“In years gone by, it was about keeping the ball out of the net.

“The Joe Hart thing has blown it up a wee bit. Pep Guardiola has got a specialist style of playing, so you can understand that to a certain degree.

“But it hasn’t really affected me so it’s hard to comment.

“You can only do what you’re asked to do.

“Young keepers coming through maybe have to think more about it. So maybe in five, 10 or 15 years down the line, keepers will be a lot better because of that.

“I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I think if you’re making saves and keeping the ball out of the net and keeping clean sheets, that’s the most important thing.”


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