Wales v Scotland: Mulgrew fit but only Levein knows where he’ll play
CHARLIE Mulgrew is fit and ready to make his first competitive appearance in a Scotland jersey against Wales tomorrow night. Nobody seems to know exactly if or where he will play and, quite frankly, neither does he.
Last season’s triple player of the year and Celtic’s vice-captain has impressed in a number of positions since rejoining the club in the summer of 2010.
An Achilles injury kept him from featuring in September’s Hampden double-header against Serbia and Macedonia. With Daniel Fox also unavailable, Scotland manager Craig Levein was forced into drafting in Paul Dixon as emergency cover.
Mulgrew’s form makes him a popular choice to feature somewhere in the starting line-up, but with Fox also available again after injury, and the shaky defensive display against Macedonia still fresh in the mind, it gives Levein a selection headache ahead tomorrow’s crucial Group A encounter.
“I don’t know where I will be playing,” said Mulgrew. “It is just wherever the manager sees me playing. I have not spoken too much to him about it.
“At the back is probably where I have more of a chance, but I don’t know. It is an advantage I can play a few positions and I am sure the manager is well aware of that. Whatever he has in mind, I am happy to do a job.”
The impending selection for such an important game highlights the career transformation he has enjoyed since being a defensively questionable full-back in a struggling Aberdeen side. Eyebrows were certainly raised when Neil Lennon made him his first signing after becoming Celtic manager.
There didn’t seem to be much logic is bringing back a player to Celtic Park who’d failed to impress sufficiently as a youngster and who hadn’t been a stand-out player with a club much further down the table. The scepticism appeared accurate when Mulgrew looked little more than a bit-part squad player in his first five months after returning to Glasgow.
Then a centre-back injury crisis heralded a dramatic turnaround in the player’s fortunes. Drafted into the heart of the defence for a crucial league encounter with in-form Hearts, Mulgrew produced a comfortable shift in helping the home side ease to a 4-0 victory. He remained in the position for the rest of the season as a previously leaky defence tightened itself up and Celtic came within one point of being SPL champions.
Since then, he has been a mainstay in the first-team line-up, winning all three player awards available to SPL footballers last season. Two years after wondering whether he’d get a run in the side lengthy enough to display his talents he is seeing a memorable win in Moscow quickly followed by another huge game in Cardiff.
“You want to be involved in the big games,” Mulgrew said. “It is good times playing for your country and in the Champions League. It is great. Long may it continue.
“It is a massive game and the manager has made us aware of that in training. We will all be striving to get three points.”
If he does start, it will be imperative that he and his defensive colleagues perform at their best to negate the threat from some of the English Premier League stars within the Welsh side. In particular, Tottenham Hotspur’s flying, goal-scoring winger Gareth Bale.
“He is a quality and world-class player,” Mulgrew said of his upcoming adversary. “He will be one we need to watch. He is very fast and causes teams a lot of problems so hopefully we can match him.
“Wales will need to be respected. They are international players and they play at a good level down south. They’ve got a lot of team players, so they will need to be watched as well. I am sure we will be fully prepared for what they have.”
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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