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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Strachan backs Mulgrew to play his part for Scotland

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan had no qualms about recalling Charlie Mulgrew to his squad despite the Celtic midfielder having managed just 45 minutes of action in the last five-and-a-half months.

Hamstring issues have kept Mulgrew out since early December but he made his return as a half-time substitute during Friday night's Perth stalemate with St Johnstone. Now Strachan has thrown him straight into the group who will take on Qatar in a June 5 friendly at Easter Road before travelling to Dublin for the crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with the Republic of Ireland eight days later.

Mulgrew was a key asset when the Scots fought their way to a vital 1-0 win over Martin O'Neill's side last November and his Dark Blues boss is confident the 29-year-old will have worked off his rustiness by the time the Group D return comes along next month. Strachan - who also handed a first ever call-up to Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain - said: "Charlie has been back in the Celtic side and they would not have put him in if he was not right.

"He was a huge asset for us when we played the Republic last time - and I mean huge.

"I thought he had a terrific game and just having Charlie in the squad makes us stronger. Not just in midfield but in other positions too." The biggest challenge for Scotland ahead of their Aviva Stadium date will be maintaining fitness levels until the game comes around.

Seven members of the 26-man squad who will cross the Irish Sea - David Marshall, Christophe Berra, Craig Forsyth, Gordon Greer, Ikechi Anya, Matt Richie and Johnny Russell - have already been stood down by their clubs following the completion of the English Championship campaign.

SCOTLAND SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Scott Bain (Dundee) Craig Gordon (Celtic) David Marshall (Cardiff City).

Defenders: Christophe Berra (Ipswich Town) Craig Forsyth (Derby County) Gordon Greer (Brighton & Hove Albion) Alan Hutton (Aston Villa) Russell Martin (Norwich City) Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic) Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen) Andrew Robertson (Hull City) Steven Whittaker (Norwich City).

Midfielders: Charlie Adam (Stoke City) Ikechi Anya (Watford) Barry Bannan (Crystal Palace) Scott Brown (Celtic) Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion) James Forrest (Celtic) Shaun Maloney (Chicago Fire) James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion) James McArthur (Crystal Palace) Matt Ritchie (Bournemouth).

Forwards: Steven Fletcher (Sunderland) Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) Steven Naismith (Everton) Johnny Russell (Derby County).

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