Maloney back in the limelight – but can it last?

MaloneytScotland

Shaun Maloney has had a pretty miserable time over the past twelve months, but he can still hit the headlines. He was already being quoted about the resurgence of Gordon Strachan’s Scotland side before his deflected shot sealed a 1-0 victory for them over Georgia in midweek. Now he is in the limelight once more, quote after quote from him appearing in the media.

Through his ten years of service at Celtic and an international career that started in October 2005, Maloney is well known to Scottish journalists. Moreover in a sport where its professionals are hardly known for their eloquence, he comes over as intelligent and thoughtful in his comments.

Just a couple of years ago Latics had three players regularly making appearances for Scotland. Gary Caldwell was captain for both club and country, Maloney featured regularly and James McArthur was staking a case for a midfield holding position. Since then McArthur has left for Crystal Palace and both Caldwell and Maloney have had major injury problems. Given that Maloney had started in only two matches for Wigan Athletic this season, Strachan clearly has belief in the player to pitch him into a European Championship qualifier.

Injury has been a constant companion to Maloney throughout his football career. For Celtic from 2008-2011 he made only 38 starts in three seasons. He arrived at Wigan from the Glasgow club in August 2011 for a fee of £850,000. He struggled for fitness in the first half of the 2011-12 season, making just three substitute appearances. In early March 2012 he made his Premier League debut for Latics, setting up an equaliser for Victor Moses at Norwich and making a very positive impression.

He was to go on to become a regular starter and a key player in Latics’ miraculous escape from relegation. Maloney’s first goal for Wigan was a penalty in the memorable 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield. His great goal against Manchester United in early April secured a 1-0 win and moved Latics out of the relegation zone for the first time since October. He went on to score another beauty in the 4-0 demolition of Newcastle just over two weeks later.

Maloney was to steer clear of injury in the 2012-13 season when he scored 6 goals in 34 starts and 2 substitute appearances in the Premier League. He scored a memorable opening goal in the FA Cup semi final against Millwall, but Maloney will probably be remember best of all by Latics fans for the corner kick that he launched on to Ben Watson’s head for the Cup Final winner.

However, injury was to strike Maloney again only a few months later. After scoring three goals in 6 early appearances in the Championship under Owen Coyle, Maloney was out of action for five months after requiring hip surgery. His last match had been in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester City, where he was substituted after 63 minutes on September 14th. He returned on April 1st in the 2-2 home draw against the same opponents. Maloney was to go on to make ten more appearances, including the FA Cup semi final against Arsenal and the two playoff games against Queens Park Rangers.

Maloney’s return had given fans the hope that he could produce some of his magic to help Latics secure promotion, but it was not to be. He just could not hit his best form after so long a layoff though injury.

Sadly injury has continued to dog Maloney. He was unable to take part in the pre-season warmup games, but has since started in two league games, coming off the bench in five.

A fully fit Shaun Maloney could help kick start Wigan Athletic’s stuttering season. Playiing on the right of midfield for Scotland against Georgia on Saturday, he looked much more like the player who was key during the more halcyon days of Roberto Martinez at Wigan.

The question is whether Maloney can maintain his fitness, steering clear of injury. Latics supporters will be praying that this will be the case.

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