The Celtic midfielder would have been ruled out of this weekend’s Ibrox fixture anyway after sustaining a meniscus knee injury in the 2-1 Dortmund loss against the world champions – the assignment with which Gordon Strachan’s side opened up their Group D tilt five weeks ago. However, that has not diluted the 28-year-old’s dismay over a first senior dismissal in five years.
Having been booked for a foul in the 89th minute as the Scots pushed for an equaliser against Joachim Löw’s side, Mulgrew was sent off for kicking the ball away in the third minute of added time by Norwegian referee Svein Oddvar Moen. The official had several decisions across the evening later questioned by Strachan. Mulgrew, speaking as he yesterday accepted an £18,000 cheque from club sponsors Magners on behalf of the Celtic FC Foundation, certainly continues to question the consistency that resulted in his early ejection from the Westfalenstadion pitch.
“I wouldn’t have minded but the ref never booked anybody in the game for kicking the ball away,” Mulgrew said. “I did it in the first half and he never booked me. [Germany goalkeeper Manuel] Neuer did it before me, and he never booked him. So then you subconsciously think ‘he’s not booking people for this’. And when it happened… what was I going to waste time for then? I wouldn’t have minded if he booked everybody for it then nobody would have done it, but if the ref acts the way he did then it shows what can happen.”
Mulgrew returned to full training at his club’s Lennoxtown centre at the start of this week but will be at Ibrox to watch what he is confident can be a qualification kick-starter of a win against the Georgians. He does, though, dismiss any prospect that, were a spate of injuries to befall Scotland at the weekend, he could play a more active role as Strachan’s side complete their latest qualifying double-header by taking on Poland in Warsaw in Tuesday.
“I haven’t played games and only trained a week. I’ve got to get fit and that was the reason I wasn’t called up in the first place – I have been out for five weeks and only started training this week. It’s a bit early.
“It’s disappointing. I’d love to be involved but it’s just bad timing. I’m confident the boys can get two good results, though. We seem to be playing some good stuff just now and we’ve got a good squad so I hope we can pick up our first points.”
It was initially feared that Mulgrew would require an operation to remedy a problem he says he had attempted to play through for more than a month. However, after a trip to see a London specialist it was suggested a cortisone and steroid injection could alleviate the problem. That was a course of action the player did not take lightly when it was put to him.
“I’ve never had one so didn’t know what they were about. I had to look into them,” he said. “I didn’t want to get something and then regret it but I’d definitely recommend whatever I got – it was brilliant. I’ve never felt it since.
“I was bit wary because I hadn’t had one before, and I didn’t want to get it if there was an underlying problem there, but it was a top specialist that recommended it. It has put an end to a frustrating few weeks, to say the least.
“I rested the injury for the first few weeks and then when I got the injection I was outside running, next to the training, but I couldn’t get involved in it. It was frustrating but I’m happy to be back now.
“I was carrying the injury in the background for five weeks and thought I better get it sorted. Thankfully, the injection has worked perfectly. It’s just good to get back. A lot of the time you pick up knocks and they go away but I knew this time it was going on too long and I was eventually going to have to deal with it.”