Celtic: Charlie Mulgrew poised for first-team return in Perth

Celtic midfielder Charlie Mulgrew in training of Thursday
Charlie Mulgrew has been in full training for a month
By Jim Spence
BBC Scotland

Charlie Mulgrew is winning his fitness battle ahead of Scotland's next Euro 2016 fixture and could make his Celtic first-team return on Friday.

The 29-year-old midfielder has not played since picking up a knee injury in December.

But Celtic first-team coach John Kennedy thinks Mulgrew could feature against St Johnstone.

"He's been doing great," he said. "He's trained for probably close to a month now."

Mulgrew, who was man of the match as he earned his 16th cap in Scotland's 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland in November, had targeted a return in time to challenge for a place in Gordon Strachan's squad for the 13 June return in Dublin.

Scotland warm up for that with a friendly against Qatar eight days earlier at Easter Road Stadium in Edinburgh.

Former Aberdeen and Wolves utility man Mulgrew played 45 minutes of Monday's development league match against St Mirren.

"He's looking good," said Kennedy. "We want to try to get him involved and it looks as though he's in a good place, as though he's possibly ready to play some part.

"So we'll look at it tomorrow, we'll chat and hopefully, all going well, however the game's going, we can get him involved at some point."

Charlie Mulgrew (right) in action against St Mirren's reserves
Charlie Mulgrew played against St Mirren in the development league on Monday

Celtic, who have already secured the Scottish title, have one fixture remaining after their visit to McDiarmid Park - at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Meanwhile, Kennedy concurred with manager Ronny Deila's opinion that defender Virgil van Dijk should remain at Celtic for another season to continue his development.

The 23-year-old was quoted this week as saying he would have to consider ending his two-year stay in Scottish football as he bids to break into the Netherlands squad.

"With Virgil, it's speculation - we'd the same last year," Kennedy said of the former Groningen centre-half being linked with clubs in the English top flight and the German Bundesliga.

"He's a terrific player. We can't stop teams or media speculating on him moving.

"We can't stop teams coming and watching him.

"But he's our player, he's got a two-year contract and he's a player that we want to keep because we can take him to another level as well.

"One day, I think, he's got the potential to be at the very top, but again you have to make sure it's the right time and I think, if Virgil stayed here for another season or whatever it might be, we can take him to another level before he's ready to take that big step."

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