ON THE face of it, Celtic providing Scotland’s best option at rightback, centre-half and leftback is an impressive feat. The only problem is that it is one man who ticks all of those boxes.
Unfortunately, Kieran Tierney can’t play in three places at once, but after his impressive display on the left side of central defence as he skippered his country for the first time against The Netherlands last Thursday, he may well be the answer to a conundrum that has plagued Scotland managers in recent years.
Charlie Mulgrew, a man who has filled that void in the centre of defence manfully in recent times, is in no doubt that Tierney could be the man to shore up the heart of the Scotland backline for years to come.
Having made the conversion to centre-half from leftback himself successfully enough to win the players’ and football writers’ player of the year awards while playing there for Celtic five years ago, Mulgrew is certain that Tierney can make the move just as seamlessly.
“He’s top class,” said Mulgrew. “He showed his quality yet again.
“You see his determination. He threw himself in to it. He is a great player and he leads by example.
“He can be very happy with his performance. Can he stay in that position? I don’t see why not. He’s a top player and a great guy, who is respected by all the boys.
“It doesn’t matter what age he is. There are experienced players alongside him, but he’s already got a lot of experience despite being young. It’s great to have him for Scotland.
“I know what it’s like to shift to centre half from left back. It’s a totally different picture of the game and a different department.
“It’s not easy – but he makes it look easy. He’s now played in a lot of different positions but he’s capable of doing that.
“If you look right through Europe, centre halves are all comfortable on the ball and they build from the back. That’s the way it is these days. If you are comfortable with the ball it gives the midfield more time.
“First and foremost, you are a defender, but he is comfortable with that side of the game as well.
“You can understand why people are talking about him. The good thing is his feet are on the ground. He’s down to earth and doesn’t let anything faze him.”
Tierney partnered Christophe Berra in the first half of the match against Dick Advo- caat’s Dutch side, and then partnered Mulgrew in the second. And with the likes of Leeds centre-back Liam Cooper and Hibs defender Paul Hanlon waiting in reserve, Scotland suddenly have options at the back.
MULGREW doesn’t subscribe to the notion that the heart of the defence is a problem area for Scotland, and certainly not now with such personnel available.
“We’ve all heard it, but we just get on with the job,” he said. “Everyone will look through the squad and pick a weakness. If it’s not there it would be another part of the team.
“We will just get on with it. If you are chosen to play, then you give it everything you’ve got.
“We all want to turn up for our country and do our best to try to win games.”
Mulgrew saw plenty from the experimental Scotland team assembled by interim manager Malky Mackay to suggest that there is fresh hope to take into the three friendlies before the first European Championship qualifier next September.
Mackay won’t be in charge by then, of course, but Mulgrew believes there is a strong base to work from for whoever the new manager might be.
“It was a decent game,” he said. “There were a few new faces, but we created a good few chances and were probably unlucky not to win. We were disappointed not to get something from the game. There’s plenty of positives going in to the next campaign.”
NOW aged 31 and having amassed the same number of caps, Mulgrew knows though that words of encouragement and talk of a bright future ring hollow when another campaign ends in failure to qualify for a major tournament.
But he senses a determination among the Scotland players to let their actions speak louder than their words when the competitive action gets underway once more, with the desperation from the fans for an end to the nation’s barren qualification run only surpassed within the walls of the Scotland dressing room.
“Listen, we could talk all day, but we need to go out and do it,” he said. “There is a lot of quality in the squad and a lot of technically very good players.
“Sometimes people don’t give some of the lads the credit but it’s about getting the right results.
“There’s a lot to look forward to for the future.”