Hibs’ Marc McNulty: From training with Reading youths to earning Scotland call-up

Marc McNulty weighs up a Scotland jersey, which he could be wearing in the forthcoming matches against Kazakhstan and San Marino. Picture: SNS.
Marc McNulty weighs up a Scotland jersey, which he could be wearing in the forthcoming matches against Kazakhstan and San Marino. Picture: SNS.
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Fulfilling his boyhood dream of playing for Scotland was one of the reasons Marc McNulty joined Hibs but he did not expect to catch the eye quite so soon.

That is why the on-loan striker didn’t have a clue why he was being bestowed with best wishes as he headed in from training on Tuesday.

“Honestly, my brother had texted me in the morning saying ‘have you heard anything about Scotland?’ and said I wouldn’t be in the squad because I would have had a phone call or maybe a heads up from someone at some stage.

“But then I went out to training, came back in and one of the young lads said ‘congratulations’ to me. I didn’t even think about it at the time and said ‘what for?’ and he told me I was in the squad.

“I said ‘I don’t think I am’ but he’s like ‘nah, I saw it on Twitter, you are!’ and obviously the Scottish FA had tweeted a picture of the squad. I came in and my phone was going absolutely mental. It was great to find out.

“Later on that day I got an email and a phone call from someone at the SFA to let me know the itinerary and stuff. I was just hoping that someone wasn’t at the wind-up!”

McNulty did not feature at youth level and the closest he got was watching from the sidelines like every other kid who dreamed of one day pulling on the dark blue, convincing his mum that he was old enough to get the train with some schoolfriends and head through to Hampden to lend his voice to the roar.

“It’s great. It’s probably every boy’s dream growing up,” he said. “The first thing you want to do is play for your country and that was the case for me.

“Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to do it at youth team levels but that’s fine looking back now. If I was to get a cap it’d be a dream come true.”

Inclusion in Alex McLeish’s squad for the forthcoming trips to face Kazakhstan and San Marino signals a swift and significant change of fortune for the 26-year-old, who is only playing in the Scottish Premiership because he was deemed to be surplus to requirements at parent club Reading, despite a million-pound move there in the summer.

“I did always have it in the back of my mind that one day, the dream would come true and I might get [a call-up] but it did come as a surprise that it happened so early,” he said.

“Especially after being told I could find something else and training with the youth team at Reading.

“Then, never in my wildest dreams did I think that in a couple of months time I’d get a call-up for Scotland. It has gone from one of my lowest points to the highest.

“I signed a four-year deal in the Championship, was desperate to impress, then a new manager comes in and says ‘nah, you’re not for me’.

“That’s fine, that’s football. But I didn’t get to train with the first team and it was a nightmare.

“But I stayed positive and knew January was just around the corner and there would be other opportunities elsewhere. I can’t put into words how happy I am now.

“I had a good season last year and made a few people aware of what I could do. I think some folk might have wanted to watch me this season to see if I could kick on – then I found myself in the stand more than anything else.

“It was difficult at the start of the season when I wasn’t playing but coming back up to Hibs has given me a platform to perform, enjoy my football and show them what I can do.

“I’m glad they were watching and gave me this opportunity.”

With six goals and several assists in his first eight games for the Easter Road club McNulty knows he is in the kind of form with which he could take advantage of the absence of players such as Leigh Griffiths and Steven Naismith and stake a serious claim for a starring role in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

“It gives me a chance to go there and grasp it with both hands,” he added. “I’ve got to be confident that, if I get minutes on the pitch, then I’ll do that.”