David Marshall speaks on his record-breaking Scotland career and those rumours about re-joining Celtic

There are Scotland players with more caps and others who have tasted greater success. As of last month, David Marshall can claim one distinguished title for himself.

David Marshall in training ahead of Scotland's play-off final against Serbia  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
David Marshall in training ahead of Scotland's play-off final against Serbia (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Of all those to have turned out for Scotland since that first international match v England at Hamilton Crescent in 1872, he has endured longest. He deserves a medal, particularly given the unpromising way his international career started when he conceded 11 goals in his first three outings.

Despite the return of old adversary Craig Gordon as well as his own club Derby County's current poor form, Marshall will surely gain his 40th cap against Serbia in Thursday’s play-off final. It will be 16 years, two months and 27 days since he made his debut against Hungary in August 2004.

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When he kept a clean sheet in the semi-final play-off against Israel last month, he took ownership of a record that had stood since the early 1900s. Fellow goalkeeper Ned Doig won his first Scotland cap on February 19, 1887 and his last on April 4 1903 - a span of 16 years and seven weeks. Nevertheless, the Sunderland legend only won six caps.

Marshall’s international career was once similarly stop-start but is in full flood now. He has missed just one of Scotland’s last 13 games and he has not conceded a goal in 378 minutes, including that win over Israel when he saved a crucial penalty in the shoot-out from Eran Zahavi. It was only later that he discovered the historic significance of that appearance.

Rollercoaster ride

"I don’t know who keeps an eye on these kinds of records,” he said. “It shows the longevity, all the players and managers who have come and gone since my first squad … It’s gone by so quickly. The first few years Craig played a lot and got his injuries, then Allan McGregor was in. It has probably taken me a bit of time for me to get a number of caps. But under Gordon Strachan, and now Steve (Clarke), I’ve been able to get a few.”

If he had played even the majority of games since 2004, Marshall would now have around 150 caps. He has constantly had to joust with celebrated rivals for the gloves, one of whom, Gordon, has just returned to the squad after a two-year absence. Although there were times when he wondered if he would ever get back to the No.1 position he held for a spell under Strachan, Marshall never considered quitting.

“That was probably the most difficult time because I never played for a while after that,” he said. “I thought at that time there was no need to change. But in international football if you’re not playing at club level then that makes it difficult for international manager to pick for you.

“We went through a stage under Gordon when the results weren’t good enough and he changed quite a lot of players, I think before the England game at Wembley. Then we went on a good run again. It can change quickly at international level.

“The retirement thing has never really crossed my mind, as yet,” he added. “I always thought I could get back to playing for Scotland again.”

Stevie Woods impact

He spoke to Stevie Woods, the Scotland goalkeeper coach with whom he worked at Celtic. They decided it would be better if he concentrated on club football rather than heading off with Scotland, as Alex McLeish sought to blood Scott Bain and Jon McLaughlin.

“I was just coming back from injury at Hull and Greegsy (McGregor) was actually playing in front of me at Hull,” Marshall explained. “I had a conversation with Woodsie along the lines of 'there’s no point being there if you are not playing'. That’s just the way it went. And then I got back playing (club football) and Steve gave me a call – he thought it was more of an issue I did not want to come. That was never the case. As soon as he called, I was delighted to get back."

His return to prominence with Scotland led Celtic fans to hope he might return to the club in the summer. Instead, he moved from bankrupt Wigan Athletic to Derby County, currently bottom of the Championship.

“It was never close,” he revealed, with reference to the Celtic speculation. “I signed a couple of years at Derby and I am really delighted. What happened at Wigan was such a strange thing in the summer and with me being an international, I just wanted to get to as high a level as I could.

“I know Derby are struggling at the minute but I am confident that will turn around. Derby have always been a play-off team and trying to get promoted so that is what I am looking to do. I signed a two-year contract so I am hoping we can eventually get promoted.”

Euros – and maybe a World Cup

Marshall will be 36 by the time next summer’s Euros come around. Terry Gennoe, his old coach at Celtic, reckons he can play for Scotland until he is 40, meaning he might have a World Cup left in him as well.

However, one thing at a time. He is preparing for what could be a night of nights in Belgrade. Illustrating what it would mean to this generation of Scotland players, older ones such as Marshall in particular, he believes victory in Belgrade would mean more to him than the time a callow 19-year-old kept a clean sheet at the Nou Camp against Barcelona on his full European debut in 2004.

“That Barcelona game was huge, obviously. In Scotland, I don’t have a lot of what you would call ‘career moments’,” he reflected. “But everybody remembers that one. Virtually all of my stuff has been done down south. So, to go and qualify for a tournament – with the length of time we’ve not been at one – would be the highlight of my career.”

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