THERE might be little optimism about the future prospects of the Scotland team among their supporters at the moment after yet another failed qualifying campaign.
But David Marshall, who has been a member of the national set-up on and off for over 15 years now, is adamant the current squad is as talented as at any time that he has been involved.
The youth of his team mates and the high level many of them are playing their club football at in the Premier League down in England make Marshall, who is set to start in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Russia here tonight, confident that far better times lie ahead.
The presence of Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), John Fleck (Sheffield United), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth) John McGinn (Aston Villa), Kenny McLean (Norwich), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Andy Robertson (Liverpool) and Robert Snodgrass (West Ham) in this camp and the availability going forward of Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United) and Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) have buoyed the Wigan goalkeeper
Asked if he felt there had been a steady decline in standards at Scotland since he was first called up back in 2004, Marshall said: “I disagree with that. I have been there a long, long time. There are times when you think ‘maybe the squad isn’t as strong as it was three or four years ago’.
“But I think in terms of the age of this squad and the level the lads are playing I don’t see there being a decline. Obviously, we have to show that on the pitch. I really do (think there is potential).
“Obviously making that comment when we are getting beat you leave yourself open to criticism, which is fine. I can only say what I honestly feel and I honestly feel the lads are at a great age.
“I can’t remember too many starting sides when the majority of them are playing at the level that these boys, the Prem boys, are playing at. It might not be this month or next month, but I genuinely do feel there are reasons to be optimistic.
“I can’t remember too many times when there have been proper Premier League players who are really, really important to their team. We have had some in the past. But I really feel in the next few years we can really benefit from that.
“The quality was there in last month’s training. It looked really good, we just didn’t perform. We just need to get that confidence. To get people to believe in us we need to show that.”
Marshall feels the players like McBurnie and McTominay need time to find their feet at international level, but is certain they will start to perform as well as they do for their clubs once they had adjusted to the demands of representing Scotland.
“It is different,” he said. “I don’t think you can judge Oli (McBurnie) after two qualifiers at international level. He has scored a lot of goals in the Championship and is finding his feet in the Premier League as well. There are lads here who are seasoned who are playing in the Premier League and have got that confidence and other lads who are inexperienced, but can hopefully drag us along.”
Marshall, who was brought back into the Scotland squad when Steve Clarke was appointed manager back in May, is keen for the national team to perform better in their remaining Group I matches and build up momentum before the play-off matches next year.
“There’s a kind of desperation to get to a finals because we have not been there for so long,” he said. “The gaffer has only been with us for three weeks. I’m sure he will be looking forward to these four games to find out a bit more about the lads and prepare us for March.”
Marshall is set to have a new central defensive partnership in front of him in the Luzhniki Stadium tonight after both Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley were forced to withdraw. Mikey Devlin, Stuart Findlay or Declan Gallagher is set to play alongside Charlie Mulgrew. “I’m okay with it,” he said. “I train with the lads. Plus, Charlie has joined Wigan as well and I know him really well. It doesn’t really affect me.”