Signing David Marshall could be the best thing Shaun Maloney ever did for Hibs
Scott Allan reckons David Marshall’s ability with the ball at his feet is an upgrade on Matt Macey and will improve the way Hibs build from the back. He will help Lee Johnson’s team in many other ways too.
The team captain made a number of big saves in the derby draw against Hearts on Sunday, the best of them a double stop from point-blank range to deny Lawence Shankland and then Barrie McKay in quick succession to keep his team in the game when the visitors were a goal in front and in the ascendancy.
The 37-year-old former Scotland goalkeeper further endeared himself to the Hibs fans by running towards them arms aloft in a passionate celebration after Martin Boyle’s last-gasp equaliser.
Allan was a peripheral member of a Hibs squad under Shaun Maloney in the second half of last season encouraged to to build patiently from the back. He has an insiders’ perspective.
His suggestion on Sky Sports ahead of the derby that Maloney’s style of play didn’t really suit Macey, the 6ft 7in former Arsenal goalkeeper who was No1 last season but struggled on his full debut for Luton Town this week, was a perceptive one.
Maloney must have agreed with that assessment and deserves credit for the pursuit and signing of his former Celtic and Scotland teammate. Although he was sacked before he got the opportunity to work with him, his successor is now reaping the rewards.
Johnson has implemented a style of play with a much higher tempo in possession and wants his team to press opponents further up the pitch than Maloney did. But building with purpose from the back remains a feature of Hibs’ play under the new boss, requiring a goalkeeper who is comfortable and confident with the ball at his feet to get things moving.
Allan believes Marshall’s distribution, as well as his leadership, experience and shot-stopping, makes Hibs a far more fluid and robust unit. His sheer presence between the sticks has given the whole team more confidence and security.
“Having a guy behind you of that calibre is massive,” Allan explained on Sky Sports ahead of the derby. “Maybe last year I think we struggled a bit playing out. We didn’t really get the fluency we probably wanted to build our way out. He can definitely do that.
"The most important thing is that he can make saves. The experience he adds to this Hibs team is why he has been made captain.”
Marshall has described the team captaincy as a “huge honour” and says he will lean on club captain Paul Hanlon and other experienced players like Lewis Stevenson and Darren McGregor.
The early indications are that giving him the added responsibility has been a very good call by Johnson. If Marshall can provide for Hibs what fellow veterans Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon continue to provide for Rangers and Hearts, there is good reason to believe that the goalkeeper will be worth his weight in gold as the season unfolds.
His signing could even be the best thing Maloney ever did for Hibs.