CHARLIE Mulgrew expects a hostile atmosphere when Scotland take the field against the Republic of Ireland but after so long out through injury, he’s ready for anything.
“I saw Ireland’s game against Poland and the crowd definitely played their part,” the Celtic midfielder said. “They really got behind the team in the second half and their players responded to that. So it’s going to be a really difficult game on Saturday, one of the toughest in the group.”
Mulgrew had what he reckoned was his best game for Scotland in last November’s victory over the Irish, which must have made the disruptions of the second half of the season all the more frustrating for him.
“That game at Celtic Park was massive. As a team, I thought we battled well in hard circumstances in a big match and came out on top.
“I really enjoyed it and on a personal level I thought I played well. But the injury –the tendons – has been a slow one.
“I kept getting setbacks and that was disappointing because I was desperate to be back and involved with Scotland again. I always want to play for my country and everyone in the group is the same.
“You can see that there aren’t many call-offs in June. Maybe there were in the past but there’s great enthusiasm from everyone to be involved now.”
As proof of Mulgrew’s commitment to the cause, manager Gordon Strachan even had the 29-year-old lobbying for his return when the pair bumped into each other at the dentist’s.
“When I had those setbacks I tried to remain positive and the gaffer was a great help with that. He’s been saying some nice things about me, which is great, but he knew that what I needed most was to get a game.”
Mulgrew got his chance in last Friday’s friendly against Qatar in the centre of defence and you won’t hear this man dismiss it as a game of no meaning.
“It was great to be back playing. That was my first 90 minutes in a while and I’m delighted to have it under my belt.
“Qatar became a goal for me. I wanted to be back earlier but that didn’t happen and this game looked like the best option.
“I was desperate to be back for Celtic before the end of the season as well, and managed to make a couple of appearances which set me up for the friendly and now for Ireland. I’m definitely ready for Saturday.”
The man who scored the winner at Easter Road, Matt Ritchie, wasn’t involved the last time Scotland played Martin O’Neill’s team and Mulgrew reckons he could be a bit of a secret weapon.
“Matt will bring something different. You saw the problems he can cause opening up defences. He’s got a huge part to play.”