Just days after The Beating of Barca in 2004 the youthful Celtic chief executive, Peter Lawwell presented teenage sensation, David Marshall, with a new contract, reward for his incredible goalkeeping performances against the Catalans. Having made only a single first team appearance, in a cup game against (then) lower league opponents, David played the second half of the first leg against Ronaldinho & Co, then all of the second leg, without conceding a goal.
It Camp Nou performance was the most remarkable I’ve seen from a keeper. After years looking for a solid performer to make the position his own, it looked like we had a new star.
A year later David had, if anything, regressed. He remained first choice until after the start of season 2005-06 but Artur Boruc, for a while the genuine article, soon replaced him. David was shipped out to Norwich before eventually settling at Cardiff City, where he has built a solid career, but his star never shone as brightly as we expected it to. His Scottish contemporaries, Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon, both overtook him.
It is incredibly hard for a youth player to break into a team like Celtic in a position like goalkeeper, or striker, the pressure to deliver – every time – is so high, we are a whole lot more likely to introduce wingers. The parallels between David Marshall and Tony Watt are remarkable, so far.
From the outside it’s hard to guess what went wrong for David at Celtic. He lost his place at Celtic when he was just 20 and the trajectory of his career was never the same but 20 is still remarkably young for a keeper working at Champions League level. Tony Watt is two years younger than David and he is in the considerably better position of being able to come on as substitute for sections of games, or to drop away for a few weeks, if necessary.
We should expect more fantastic splurges of form from the player but there will be frustrations and dips in form too. He has the skill, speed and strength to make it. With hard work and patience he stands an excellent chance.
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