TALK­ING CELTIC

Evening Times - - SPORT - By GRAEME McGARRY

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.”

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