New deal for Celtic's Nou Camp hero

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill, the Celtic manager, handed David Marshall a new four-year contract after his heroics in Barcelona on Thursday night - and then joked that it was all downhill for the young goalkeeper from now on.

The 19-year-old rookie, who was standing in for the suspended Robert Douglas, was Celtic's hero in their dogged goalless draw with the Catalans in the Nou Camp which sent the Parkhead side through to the Uefa Cup quarter-finals with a 1-0 aggregate success.

Hours later, the youngster committed himself to Celtic until 2008 and is now set for another huge test in tomorrow's Old Firm derby if Douglas fails to recover completely from an ongoing hip injury.

But O'Neill joked: "David thinks all games are like the Barcelona one. For a young lad to step into the Nou Camp after playing so few games and play the way he did was magnificent. But as I said jokingly to him 'it's downhill after that'.

"We've signed him up for the next four years but it was in the pipeline anyway regardless of his performance against Barcelona. I've said for the last couple of seasons that he's got great potential and the rest is very much up to him."

O'Neill however, admits that even he was surprised at the performance of his young goalkeeper, who kept the Spaniards at bay with a string of saves almost straight from the kick-off.

He said: "We never had any qualms about putting him in but I don't think anybody would have made up the performance he conjured up for us. It was magnificent.

"I thought his first save in the first minute was a big moment in the game. It wouldn't have been his fault if they had scored but we would have been a goal down within a minute in the Nou Camp. So I felt that save was magnificent. It would be great to say we knew he had the ability to do what he did but it was an extraordinary performance."

Marshall insists that he was always keen to extend his contract at Celtic Park but admits the excitement in the last few days has led to some sleepless nights.

He said: "My mind was always on staying. Because of what has happened in Spain the contract has been brought to the fore but as the manager said it was always in the pipeline.

"To sign for the club you supported as a boy is unbelievable but you just have to try not to let it get to your head and keep working hard in training."

The match at Ibrox tomorrow will be the fourth this season between the two Scottish giants, and Rangers are 0-3 so far having lost 1-0, 3-0 and 1-0. Celtic lead Rangers by 16 points with only nine matches to play. Hearts are third, 34 points behind Celtic.

O'Neill says success in Europe is now his main priority, but he is aware of the dangers of complacency going into the Old Firm match. "It has happened on more than one occasion now where the Rangers game gets dwarfed because of commitments elsewhere," he said.

"Naturally, it's still a big game and one to look forward to. We know it's going to be a really difficult game but what we do know is that we have to win four out of nine matches to win the league. Our record against them recently has been pretty decent but Rangers are capable of beating us also."

Apart from Douglas, Celtic's main injury doubts are Jackie McNamara, who is struggling with a thigh injury, and Alan Thompson, who took a thigh knock after a challenge with Ronaldinho at the Nou Camp Stadium. Bobo Balde returns to the squad after being suspended for the Uefa Cup trip to Spain.

Rangers will delay a decision on the fitness of defender Frank de Boer, who has an ankle injury, until today. Fernando Ricksen returns from suspension and centre backs Craig Moore and Henning Berg rejoin the pool after knee and Achilles problems respectively. The striker Shota Arveladze (knee) and midfielder Mikel Arteta (shoulder) remain sidelined.

Comments