Has there ever been a bigger transformation in a player than Charlie Mulgrew 2011?
When Mulgrew was named in the Celtic side to face Rangers at Ibrox in January most supporters wondered what Neil Lennon was thinking about.
Now if Mulgrew was left out the Celtic boss would have some explaining to do.
From the moment that he came on to partner Thomas Rogne at home to Aberdeen the 24-year-old has barely put a foot wrong.
Mulgrew strolled through the next four matches, against Hearts, Aberdeen twice and Rangers away playing alongside Rogne, Mark Wilson and Daniel Majstorovic with the poise of a veteran.
“Charlie has been superb,” Lennon admitted yesterday. “He’s not put a foot wrong and the bonus with him is that he gets us playing from the back. His composure is fantastic. The two centre-half’s were immaculate.”
Watching any centre half with the ball at his feet can be a fraught experience.
‘Just blooter it, Row Z, or stop trying to play football’ usually accompany the worrying sight of a defender with time on the ball.
Against Rangers, and £4m Nikica Jelavic, Mulgrew played through the 90 minutes as if he was enjoying a kick-about amongst pals.
It’s hard to believe the clamour and desperation amongst the supporters for another defender to be brought in during the final stages of the January transfer window.
Any brute of a centre-half, 30 plus with recent Premiership experience and costing over 20k per week would have been welcomed as the man to reinforce Celtic’s title bid.
Instead, as February has developed, the former Wolves, Southend and Aberdeen man has taken his opportunity and probably saved the club a small fortune.
When Mulgrew returned to Celtic in the summer on a Bosman there were no fanfare’s with only Sheffield United offering competition for his signature.
Following in the less than distinguished footsteps of Momo Camara, Lee Naylor and Edson Braffheid expectations over Mulgrew were rock bottom.
A dodgy left-back that could take a mean free kick was hardly likely to transform Celtic’s fortunes with dumbing down and squad man the kindest descriptions offered following his signing.
This morning, having played a significant part in three dominating performances against Rangers, Mulgrew is a player transformed.
Despite his relative youth in the position the former Aberdeen man seemed to be the one providing a calming influence at the back.
At times this season Daniel Majstorovic has had a firefighting job keeping the defence together but since the turn of the year Celtic have lost only two goals in the SPL with one of them down to eagle-eyed Willie Collum.
Yesterday’s win over Rangers put Celtic back in control in the title race- if Neil Lennon’s side goes on to win the championship no one will deserve, or enjoy, that success more than Charlie Mulgrew.