CHARLIE Mulgrew may have swapped challenging for titles and trophies with Celtic for a relegation dogfight with Blackburn Rovers this season.

The height of his ambitions at club level this term may simply to stay in the Sky Bet Championship, not qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.

But the versatile player has no regrets about turning down the chance to work under Brendan Rodgers at Parkhead last summer. In fact, he feels it has turned him into a better player.

“It’s been good," he said as he joined up with the Scotland squad at Oriam outside Edinburgh ahead of the friendly against Canada and Russia 2018 qualifier with Slovenia yesterday.

"I’m enjoying the change. It’s something different, playing different teams and we’ve got a big challenge for the rest of the season. But everything is positive, we’re looking forward and we’re all enjoying it.

“At the time, a lot of people looked and thought it wasn’t the right move, but it was me that wanted to do it. I wanted to experience something different, at this stage of my career it was probably my last chance to go down south and I wanted that.

“Off the field everything has been great, on the field it’s been difficult picking up results. But I’ve never regretted my decision. I’m enjoying the challenge, I’m enjoying playing different teams at big stadiums and a whole new challenge. We’ve also picked up recently, so I’m enjoying it."

Having spent the last five years helping Celtic dominate domestic football, Mulgrew was looking for a change of scene. He has certainly got one at Blackburn who are in the relegation zone with three games remaining.

The 31-year-old, though, believes that being involved in the second tier down south, even at the bottom end of the division, has improved him as a player.

“A lot of the games are more even down there and that was part of the challenge why I wanted to go down," he said. “I wanted to be part of that, experience that and grow. I feel it’s improved me as well.

“You have a lot of the ball at Celtic, in most games you’ve got at least 60 to 70 percent possession. So it’s different games, there’s more defending to be done. I’m enjoying it."

A player who has been dogged by niggling injuries in the last two seasons and who last played in a competitive fixture for his country 18 months ago has also enjoyed getting a game on a weekly basis again.

“The regular involvement has prepared me for this week," he said. "It keeps you fit. I like to play as many games as I can and I always feel at my best when I’m playing games.

“The fitter you are, the better it’s going to be for you. I feel as if I’ve improved since I’ve been at Blackburn. It’s opened my eyes a bit.

“I’m really enjoying it and I feel more prepared now and that I’m a better player, more experienced. It’s a more demanding league. Every game is genuinely 50-50."

Mulgrew has been playing mainly at centre half for Blackburn in recent weeks - something which will have pleased Scotland manager Gordon Strachan immensely as that has been a real problem position during his four year tenure.

“I’ve played maybe twice in midfield, one against Manchester United, but I’ve played mostly in the centre of defence this season and I spoke to the manager about that because he likes to football from the back and that suits me," he said.

“But I said to him, the same way I’ve said a thousand times before, that I’m happy wherever I’m needed but that I probably prefer centre half, or midfield, but he’s happy with me at centre back at the moment.

“I’ve played in different positions for Scotland. I’ve been down on the squad list as a defender and played midfield. I’m just looking to do my best in training and will be happy wherever the manager wants to put me in.

“When you concede goals or things don’t go right it’s easy to point to the centre backs. But as a team you defend and attack. We all take responsibility for that."

Mulgrew hasn't been involved in any of the Russia 2018 qualifiers to date and has been helpless to prevent Scotland dropping to second bottom spot in Group F.

However, he refuses to accept that the national team's chances of reaching the World Cup finals next year are finished.

“That’s typical, people just want to be negative," he said. "They build it up and then they just want to get on the negative. That’s something we need to deal with.

“We just need to win our next game and that’s Wednesday and after that we’ll deal with the game coming on Sunday. The most important thing is the game on Sunday.

“We’re looking to win on Wednesday with a good performance to take us into Sunday. It’s a game we want to win, we’re looking to win it and we’re doing everything we can to do that."

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