FIT-AGAIN Charlie Mulgrew has revealed he would give his eye teeth to go straight back into Gordon Strachan’s plans for next month’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier in Dublin.
The 29-year-old Celtic midfielder made his comeback on Friday night against St Johnstone having missed five months of the season with a troublesome hamstring tendon injury.
‘There is a lot of competition. Midfield is a very strong area’
Despite his lack of game time, Mulgrew believes he is on course to make a remarkable return for the hugely important meeting with Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland on 13 June after being given positive vibes from Strachan when he met him at a dental surgery.
Mulgrew was outstanding for Scotland when the sides met at Celtic Park last November in a central midfield role beside Scott Brown when Shaun Maloney’s goal clinched a crucial win.
And even although he will have very limited game time between now and next month’s return match, he feels he can be ready.
After Celtic’s game at Perth on Friday night, he said: “I’m hoping to. I’m desperate to. That’s why I’m hoping I can be involved in the Inverness game next weekend and push myself forward for that.
“I bumped into Gordon at the dentist – he was just in front of me.
“We had a chat and I told him the situation and everything was very positive. He was happy with that.
“I think I will be mentally fresher than a lot of players who are kind of winding down whereas I would happily play right through the summer so hopefully it does work in my favour.
“Scott and I did well the last time we played Ireland but it was a good team performance. It was a battle and we enjoyed it obviously because we won.
“There is a lot of competition. The midfield is a very strong area and I’m very aware when you are not there – there are not that many games or that much training – you could potentially be fighting for your place.
“That’s what pushes everyone on and I think you get the best out of everyone because of that.”
Mulgrew effectively only has the final league game of the season against Inverness and then Scotland’s friendly with Qatar at Easter Road on 5 June to hone his match sharpness for a game that could be pivotal to Scotland’s qualifying hopes.
The Scots are joint second in Group D with World Cup winners Germany, one point behind Poland and two ahead of the Irish at the half-way stage.
Victory in Dublin might just push the Irish out of the qualification equation but Mulgrew is not looking too far ahead.
He said: “The Qatar game would be a good place to show I’m fit and ready so hopefully I get the call-up and I can get more match sharpness.
“It’s a huge game in Dublin but it’s not all hinging on this game. It’s obviously massive and they are one of our rivals in the group but we are not getting carried away and thinking everything hinges on this game.
“We want to win it, of course, but there is still a long way to go.”
Mulgrew knows he faces a fight with Nir Bitton to reclaim his central midfield role in the Celtic side for next season as the Israeli has been very impressive in the second half of the season.
However, there is every likelihood that he will be utilised behind Bitton in the role of centre back, with Jason Denayer returning to Manchester City after his loan spell and Virgil van Dijk strongly hinting that he is ready to move to the English Premier League.
Mulgrew said: “I have been impressed with Nir. He is still young but it’s no surprise to me that he has done well because I have seen him in training and I could see what he could do.
“I have been enjoying midfield but I can do a job in other places. I have played at centre back and I enjoy that as well.
“They are the two areas I enjoy the most – centre of the park in midfield or at the back. It’s really where I am most needed.
“I have spoken to the manager before and he knows my thoughts. I’m happy to play at the back if needed. I’m sure he will have his own thoughts.”