The phone call that led to Shaun Maloney's coaching exit from Celtic

By John McGinley

April 25, 2021

Shaun Maloney has given a fascinating interview to journalist Hugh MacDonald this weekend [Scottish Daily Mail 24/04 print edition, page 122], going into detail about his footballing idols and the circumstances surrounding his coaching exit from Celtic in 2018.

Maloney counts Lisbon Lion John Clark, former captain Paul Lambert, former coach John Robertson and the iconic Martin O’Neill amongst his Celtic heroes.

Giving him the confidence as a player to attack with careless abandon, he’s now taking the lessons learned from men like that into his coaching career with Belgium.

Of his time under O’Neill and Robertson, Maloney said: “He had an amazing aura, a wonderful gift of making you want to please him. I don’t know how you can fully describe that gift. He would encourage you, particularly attacking players.

“John Robertson was the same. One of the greatest players in Scottish football, he would be at your side telling you to keep going. His message was: you may lose possession, there may be moments of failure but there will be moments when it is successful and it will create a chance.”

Maloney travels across Europe keeping track of world-class Belgians in some of the biggest leagues around, also spending hours on the training pitch with them during international breaks.

His coaching mentor is Roberto Martinez, who first sparked a fire and passion for the tactical side of the game when Maloney was a player at Wigan.

“‘I was suddenly exposed to a football I had never known,” Maloney told MacDonald. “He would ask me to do something and I would ask why. We could then talk for 40 minutes about the purpose of what he was asking me to do.”

That relationship is eventually what led to Maloney’s exit as a Celtic coach in August 2018.

The former attacker explained: “I was coaching at Celtic and Roberto phoned to talk about Dedryck Boyata. At the end of the call, Roberto asked me if I would be one of his assistants. Graham Jones had left and Thierry Henry was leaving too.”

Maloney had initially tried to work for both the club and the national team, but admitted this weekend: “It wasn’t fair on anyone. I couldn’t do the two jobs to the best of my abilities.”

The 38-year-old had been working with Tommy McIntyre and Celtic Academy talents at the time.

Celtic were effusive with their praise of him when he left despite these circumstances, clearly open to maintaining a positive relationship with the former forward. []

Shaun Maloney during his Celtic playing days / (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

We’ve spoken before on 67 Hail Hail about Maloney’s credentials as a future coach with the senior team at Celtic, and perhaps even a manager.

It’s too soon for all that of course, and he still has massive ambitions to complete with Belgium.

However, as he speaks passionately about his Celtic past and current coaching achievements, it’s hard not to picture him back at Lennoxtown one day.

In other news, Celtic are interested in summer move for 25-goal striker Jean-Pierre Nsame.