There are a number of obvious midfield options available to Scotland manager Gordon Strachan as he looks to plug the gaps created by the injury-absences of Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong for this week’s pivotal World Cup qualifying double-header. Charlie Mulgrew is well aware of that. If, though, the Scotland manager was seeking a more creative solution then the versatile 30-year-old would happily stick his hand up to be considered.
Mulgrew is principally a centre-back these days. The Blackburn Rovers man performed admirably there alongside Christophe Berra as two clean sheets were recorded in the wins away to Lithuania and at home to Malta last month. These victories ensured that Scotland could make the play-offs by winning at home to Slovakia and away to Slovenia this week.
Mulgrew has also performed admirably in the deep-lying midfielder role that Brown will not be available to occupy. Indeed, installed there he outshone his then fellow Celtic player in highly regarded win over the Republic of Ireland at Celtic Park in November 2014.
Moreover, the 29-times capped Glaswegian also produced a powerful display there for Rovers in their narrow FA Cup defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford in February that drew praise from no less than Jose Mourinho himself. Probably what counts against a switch to midfield for Mulgrew this week is that, with Grant Hanley not featuring for Norwich City, there are no obvious defensive replacements for him.
“I’d be more than happy [to play as a sitter] if the manager thought for either of those games that was a role I could play for the team,” Mulgrew said. “I’ve played there before, alongside Scott and without him, and I’m pretty comfortable there.
“But midfielder is one of the strongest areas of our team, there’s Darren Fletcher playing with Stoke every week, Barry Bannan, James McArthur, James Morrison. There’s a lot of quality there and whoever does it will be confident they can do well.
“Probably the last time I played the role was against Manchester United in the Cup last season but I’ve played it before without a lot of previous experience and I was quite happy. But I’m sure the manager will have thoughts in his mind already.”
Mulgrew says it is not a question of being able to cope without Brown and Armstrong, more a matter that: “We need to.” “We need to get on with it,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good players and everyone trains hard and plays hard to try to get in the team so I’m sure it’s an opportunity for others to step up, get a game and do themselves and the team justice.”
It was a case of simply getting on with it when Mulgrew found himself having to operate in the third tier of English football this season following the Lancashire club’s relegation from the Championship on the final day of last season. He recognises that playing at this level could have had an adverse effect on his international career.
However, his recent contributions to the Scotland cause and the faith that the Strachan has always shown in his abilities suggest he remains an important member of the national set-up.
“Of course I was concerned [that being in League One could be a negative] but there’s nothing you can do about that, you just have to get on with it, work hard and do your best.
“Obviously I’ve enjoyed the last couple of games but that still doesn’t mean I’m going to start the next one. The manager treats every game differently and I’ll need to go there and work hard again. I enjoyed playing with Christophe and I don’t think playing in League One will affect me that much.”