Hibs’ latest Scotland call-up Marc McNulty reflects on his roller-coaster journey from lowest ebb to a career high

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MARC McNULTY readily admits that he was at his lowest ebb when his dream switch to Reading tunrned into ‘a nightmare’. Frozen out of the first-team and training with the kids, the notion that he would soon be leading the line for Scotland was bordering on absurd.

Yet, here we are. A January loan move to Hibernian has re-ignited the 26-year-old’s career, with six goals in eight outings illustrating exactly why the Royals chose to splash out £1 million to sign him from Coventry last summer.

He has succeeded in catching the eye of national boss Alex McLeish, who handed McNulty his maiden call-up this week for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino; a mouth-watering opportunity given the dearth of proven attackers in the group.

McNulty has described the call-up as a dream (Pic: Hibs TV)

Even after several days to let the news sink in, the former Livingston youngster was still somewhat dumbfounded by his journey from Reading exile under Jose Manuel Gomes – the successor to Paul Clement, who signed him – to the international set-up.

“It has gone from one of my lowest points to the highest,” smiled McNulty. “I signed a four-year deal in the Championship, was desperate to impress, then a new manager comes in and says ‘nah, you’re not for me’.

“That’s fine, that’s football. I didn’t even get to train with the first team and it was a nightmare. At that point, never in my wildest dreams did I think that in a couple of months time I’d get a call up for Scotland!

“But I stayed positive and knew January was just around the corner and there would be other opportunities elsewhere. I can’t put into words how happy I am now.

“I did always have it in the back of my mind that one day the dream would come true and I might get in a Scotland squad – but it did some as a surprise that it happened so early. Especially after being told I could find something else at Reading.

“Coming back up to Hibs has given me a platform to perform, enjoy my football and show them what I can do. I’m glad they [Scotland] were watching and gave me this opportunity.”

As has become something of a tradition among shock call-ups, McNulty initially feared it was all an elaborate wind-up, having been absolutely certain that he had been overlooked when he reported for Hibs training on Monday.

A youth player delivered the good news, he swiftly searched Twitter and then the good-will messages started to flood in. Nevertheless, it was only when the e-mail from Scotland Team Manager Frank Reilly arrived that it truly sunk in.

The lad who had to beg his mum to let him get the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow with his mates to watch Scotland is now heading to Kazakhstan and San Marino with them.

“I genuinely had no idea,” he continued. “My brother texted me in the morning saying ‘have you heard anything about Scotland?’ and I told him I wouldn’t be in the squad, because surely I would have had a phone-call or a heads-up from someone.

“Then I went out to training, came back in and one of the young lads said congratulations to me and he told me I was in the squad. I said ‘I don’t think I am’, but he went ‘nah, I saw it on Twitter!’

“The Scottish FA had tweeted a picture of the squad. I came in and my phone was going absolutely mental. I was still hoping that someone wasn’t at the wind-up then, later on, I got an email and a phone call from someone at the SFA to let me know the itinerary and stuff.

“It’s great. It’s probably every boy’s dream growing up. The first thing you want to do is play for your country and that was the case for me.”

He added: “I still remember when I was really young and a group of us from school were wanting to jump on the train through to Glasgow. My mum was like ‘you’re too young to do that, you can’t go through without a parent!’ I still got through to Hampden.”

McNulty may never get a better opportunity to cement his place in the Scotland set-up, with Steven Fletcher and Steven Naismith both ruled out through injury and Leigh Griffiths still absent for personal reasons.

The spotlight has turned to the likes of Oli Burke, Oli McBurnie and McNulty to grab the baton – and it is a challenge he will relish.

“It is definitely a big opportunity for me with those players being out,” continued McNulty. “It gives me a chance to go there and grasp it with both hands. I’ve got to be confident that if I get minutes on the pitch then I’ll do that.”

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