SHAUN Maloney’s brains were in his feet and head which is not something every professional football can say.

The former Scotland and Celtic favourite was always a bit different.

He went to a posh-ish school, Cults Academy, in Aberdeen and even at 17 was articulate and interesting to interview, a far better subject than many of his senior team-mates. In short, well Maloney was never big, he’s clever.

It was in the late 1990s when word got out that Celtic had a pint-sized teenager with huge potential. Those who were around the club then felt that he was something special.

Now the coach with the Belgian national side, Maloney on Monday evening at Hampden is the opposition even if one of his best friends, David Marshall, will be in the Scotland team on Monday night charged with keeping a clean sheet against the world’s best international team.

The two have known one another for 20 years and remain close. Marshall always felt his wee pal was destined to become a coach or manager. Playing wasn’t enough for Maloney. Knowing football, learning the basics of formations and tactics, always interested Roberto Martinez’s right hand man.

“Shaun and I got right back to when we were 17 or18 at Celtic and I obviously roomed with him when we were here so we are really close,” recalled Marshall., “He was always a deep thinking. He was always going to be a coach. I ended up at Hull with him which was his last club as a player and he was always close with the manager there in terms of looking at sessions.

“To get to the level he is at already is hard but I am not really surprised because he was always really knowledgeable about the game and always wanted to coach. He went to working with the kids straight away at Celtic (after he finished playing) too.”

Maloney’s job is to coach and improve the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, which begged the question as to whether Marshall could imagine him at that level so early on in his coaching career.

“Aye, I can,” insisted the goalie. “He is very good at his job. Shaun knows exactly what he is doing, when he was at the end of his career he knew that was what he wanted to do and got his qualifications in.

“I drove him to the training ground and I used to see him talking to Marco Silva on the pitch so he was always that guy that was going to do that. He is very confident in his own ability as well.

“That was only a few months to be fair. Marco came in in January and it was only until the middle of May but they seemed to get on well the two of them. Marco was excellent, the sessions were great and I think Shaun probably learned a lot in a short space of time.

“He had bad injuries, same as big John Kennedy. I was younger and those two were in the gym constantly. To get back to the level that he was at with the injuries he had showed how dedicated he was.

“It must be strange working against your own country just because you have been drawn against them. There was the friendly as well so that will be three times. I just think he loves it. He loves coaching, the whole background to it but because it is us it must be a little bit strange for him.”

A reason, Marshall believes, why Maloney can look some of the best players on the planet in the eye on a training pitch is because the Celtic dressing room they both eventually were promoted to was tough. He learned then from the best.

Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton, Alan Thompson and John Hartson let the young lads off with nothing. One bad pass, one daft dropped ball, and all hell would break loose, as Marshall recalls only too well

He said: “That group, that dressing room, they would make you or break you. They didn’t really coach you too much – it was sink or swim really. The guys were so ruthless and hard on you but looking back I knew it was for your own good.

“So, he has been around big personalities in the dressing room from an early age yeah and I don’t think he will have any problems with that. He is a hard worker and he is confident in his own ability. The lads at that level have got the right mentality to deal with that anyway.”

Marshall has had an odd Scotland career. He won his first cap 15 years ago, travelled the world as the number three and two, was first choice, got left out altogether and now at 34, usually a good age to be a keeper, he is re-established himself as the No1 for Scotland.

Not many would have guessed that a year ago but since then Allan McGregor has retired, while Craig Gordon and Scott Bain have lost their club place.

A statistic given to him that from that first cap in 2004 to his last, which was on Friday night, he is about to move above Kenny Dalglish in terms of longevity. Although Marshall’s 30 caps and no finals is not quite 102 caps, 30 goals and three World Cups which The King can boast.

Marshall was self-deprecating about the ‘honour’. He said: “Five games in 10 years! In terms of turning up? I don't think it's much of an accolade, you're trying to build it up here! It was me Craig and Allan McGregor for a long time, lads have chopped and changed but you just need to keep going, working hard and hoping the games come.

“I started really young, 18 or 19 when I was capped. I've enjoyed it. The first few years with Scotland was difficult, Craig Gordon was flying at the time, so I didn't really play. I loved getting the two games in the summer, so hopefully it continues.

“When I was younger, I didn't enjoy at all (being stand-in) but that was probably being young. If that happened to me now, which it has, it's a lot easier because you're thinking of the team. When you're 20/21 you just want to play, so probably the same as every player you don't take it in or appreciate it as much in your 20s. But you do miss it. I missed Alex McLeish's reign, so you do miss it when it's taken away from you and appreciate it all the more.”