Chasing The Dream

Posted on November 10, 2011


By David Marshall

Craig Marshall is a sixteen year-old Pro-youth footballer who is on the cusp of fulfilling his dream. After making his first team debut for Morton, he reflects on how far he has travelled and how far he has to go.

It could be overwhelming for a boy so young to take such a big step. At the age of nine Marshall was signing his pro-youth contract with his local team St.Mirren. With his proud father at his side, Craig admits the occasion passed him by slightly.

“I don’t really think I appreciated how big a step it was back then. Coming from the West of Scotland, I was like most other boys at that age, I wanted to be a footballer. Actually, signing for St. Mirren never really had much of an affect on me. Growing up in Linwood they were my local team and the team my Dad supported. I was just happy to be playing at that level. Who I played for wasn’t important it was just getting in to the pro-youth setup that mattered. I would have played for anyone back then. Looking back I am really proud to be good enough to make that first step. Shortly after my ninth birthday I tore the ligaments in my right knee. Within a year I signed for St. Mirren, that’s incredible when I stop and think about it.”

For a small village, Linwood has a record of producing a number of professional players. Scotland great and former Celtic captain Paul Lambert, credits his footballing up bringing in Linwood for his success. Marshall also makes homage to his hometown.

“From the age of four I was training with my local boys club team Linwood Rangers. My coach Alex Stevens, who also developed other professional players such as Paul Lambert, Daryl Duffy and Alan Reid, helped me a lot. My dad ran an older team at the time and he would take me down early on Friday, which was training night at Linwood Rangers. Alex would run drills with me before the rest of the team arrived and then get me to show the rest what to do. It was nice being someone’s prodigy and having the feeling that they believed in me.”

However, the life of a young footballer is not all about fun and playing the game you love. Marshall admits that he has had to adapt and mature as his career progresses. Resisting the urges of the average teenage lifestyle is not always easy.

“When I was about 12 or 13 I went through a stage of considering quitting football at a Pro youth level. I was young and immature; I just wanted to play football. I wasn’t mentally strong enough to deal with things if they never went my way.  Fortunately, my mum and dad were always there to offer support and keep me on the right track. Even now though I admit sometimes it’s difficult. On a Saturday night I’m in bed early and my friends are out. I left school this year when most of my friends are still there getting their Highers. I don’t mind though. It’s the life style I have chosen. I love my life and I love what I do. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

The lives of the professional player and the youth player can be very similar.  Moving from club to club before finally finding a “home” can be unsettling and hinder the progress of a player.

“St.Mirren released me when I was 14. It could have been a blow to my confidence but in all honesty I was glad it happened. I wasn’t really enjoying playing for that team any more. I’d been there for five years and I needed a change. I was confident enough in my abilities that I would find a new club. I joined Queen’s Park two years ago. I had a really successful time there. Last year we reached the final of the league cup and had a successful league campaign. At the end of the season I left Queen’s. Certain circumstances were stopping me from enjoying my football as much as I should have been”

Marshall left the club after a series of disputes with manager, Davy Graham.

“I joined Morton at the start of this season. It was weird at first playing for Morton when I started at St.Mirren, Morton’s rivals. It was funny watching my dad cheering on a Morton side when he is a big Saints fan. I was made captain shortly after I signed. I think this shows how far I have progressed as a person as well as a player. Before I was mentally weak but now I’m a leader on the park.”

Of course, not all promising youngsters make it to the highest level. However, Marshall remains realistic for what the future has in store for him.

“In 10 years time, football wise I should be at my prime. Hopefully I’ll be playing professional at an SPL club, maybe higher, who knows? I just hope I am involved with football in some capacity. I’m not stupid though. Right now I go to college doing a plumbing course. If football doesn’t work out for me I hope I’ll have something to fall back on. I just can’t imagine football not being a massive part of my life. At 16 football isn’t all I know but it is all I want to know.”

Posted in: Profiles