Charlie Mulgrew's best chance of inclusion seems to be at left-back. Picture: SNS
Asked whether he takes a particular interest in opposition players who operate in a similar role to him, his answer is telling. "I don't have a position," he replies with a slight hint of a smile.
Mulgrew's transformation from a player barely appreciated at Aberdeen to a Scotland internationalist featuring regularly in the Champions League has been one of Scottish football's greatest success stories of recent times. It is all the more remarkable given the 26 year-old has achieved this metamorphosis without becoming a permanent fixture in any one position of the Celtic team.
There is a stigma attached to the phrase "utility player", just as there is with "impact player" or "bursting with potential". On the surface they read as a compliment but those terms can also be interpreted as a euphemism for someone who is not making a steady and regular contribution to the side. Utility player suggests someone who can operate in a number of roles when the first-choice player is unavailable but that cannot be said for Mulgrew who, when fit, starts most weeks for Neil Lennon's side whether at left-back, central defence or occasionally in midfield.
Mulgrew, though, is yet to achieve something similar with Scotland. He has reached a point where it is a bigger surprise if he is not named in Craig Levein's squad, than when he is, but he has not yet nailed down a regular place in the XI. He would likely have featured against Serbia and Macedonia last month had he not been injured, such was the dearth of left-back options at the time.
Paul Dixon came in and performed well but was then surprisingly omitted for the games against Wales and Belgium. Phil Bardsley and Steven Whittaker are both still sidelined, meaning it will be a straight choice between Mulgrew and Danny Fox for a place on the left side of the defence. Fox excelled in the friendly against Australia in August before picking up a knock that kept him out last month, but would seem to be the one most likely to start.
It is more congested in central defence. Christophe Berra and Andy Webster had seemed to be forging a useful partnership but Gary Caldwell has also been slated to return at the back after appearing in a holding midfield role against Serbia and Macedonia. It is difficult to see Mulgrew starting ahead of any of those three. The return of Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown – as well as the presence of James McArthur and Charlie Adam – also make it unlikely that he will be utilised in midfield, either.
His versatility – that word again – means he is a useful asset to have as a replacement and Mulgrew is content to help out any way he can. "I don't know where I will be playing," he admitted. "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. 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 for me, I am happy to do a job."
If the main story tomorrow night is Scotland and Wales both trying to keep alive their chances of reaching the World Cup, then there is an intriguing subplot that has its orgins in Lennoxtown. Kris Commons' late call-up means there will be six Celtic players involved in the match – Joe Ledley and Adam Matthews for the home side, and Commons, Mulgrew, Brown and James Forrest for Scotland – and Mulgrew admits playing against his club team-mates will be an unusual experience.
"It will be strange lining up against Joe and Adam if we get picked – guys I play with every week," he added. "I have had a bit of banter with Joe and Adam about the game. I probably won't speak to them until we get back now, though. Our main focus is to win on Friday, which would be a massive boost. We are not thinking too far ahead or what other teams are doing or not doing. It is up to us and it still in our hands so we are looking to win that Wales game. We will all be striving to get three points."
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