Maloney hopes to pen new deal

Shaun Maloney wrote himself into the history books by being hailed as both the Player and Young Player of the season by his fellow peers – a feat never before achieved.

Shaun Maloney wrote himself into the history books by being hailed as both the Player and Young Player of the season by his fellow peers – a feat never before achieved.

He could now cap what he describes as the best campaign of his career by penning a new deal at Celtic.

But the 23-year-old striker has revealed how he was on the verge on signing off from Parkhead instead.

A cruciate knee ligament injury sustained in an under-21s match in February 2004 left Maloney learning to walk properly again and it would be nine months before he would make his comeback for the second string.

Maloney was determined to make great strides in the first team again but feared he might not be given that opportunity under new manager Gordon Strachan, who replaced Martin O’Neill last summer.

He considered a loan move in a bid to secure top team football but a phenomenal effort in pre-season was enough to convince Strachan he had a decent player on his hands and Maloney became a mainstay of the Celtic team.

When asked if this was his make-or-break season, he admitted: “It could have been if things had turned out differently.

“After missing the whole of last year, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to go through another year of not playing football.”

O’Neill had shown his faith in the young striker by sanctioning a new contract while Maloney was still going through the rehabilitation process.

But he had to prove to himself he was still good enough to be a Celtic player.

He added: “I knew myself that I had to try to step up to the plate a little bit.

“I had to justify to myself and my fellow team-mates that I was good enough to be in the team.

“There have been a few of the senior players who have helped me through that.”

One of those players was John Hartson and Maloney is thrilled his fellow striker will see out the remaining year of his contract.

Hartson had considered quitting Celtic in the summer to return to his native Wales to be closer to his children but he revealed at the weekend his plans to stay at Parkhead.

Maloney said: “It’s a big boost because I think there was some uncertainty within himself.

“I don’t know his family situation but to have him back for next year is massive.”

Maloney has held talks with club bosses about his own Celtic future and he added: “If all the circumstances are right, I would love to sign.

“I’ve enjoyed it so much this year and I’ve got a lot of time for the fans and the management so, if everything is right, then I would love to stay.”

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