Dundee United gave him his start in football and now new signing Charlie Mulgrew is looking to return the favour.
Mulgrew, who spent time on loan at United from Celtic in 2006, has returned to Tannadice 15 years later on a two-year-deal.
Now 35, the versatile defender/midfielder is aiming to help new head coach Thomas Courts bring young talent into the Tangerines first team.
When he first got his break in the game, aged 19 with the Terrors, Mulgrew carpooled with host of experienced players, including Derek McInnes and Jim McIntyre.
He learned a lot from them and hopes to now do the same for United’s kids.
‘I was like a wee boy compared to them’
Reflecting on his first stint with the club, the former Scotland skipper said: “I had my first-ever first-team game for United.
“I went on loan from Celtic. Thankfully, Gordon Chisholm (then-United manager) gave me the chance to go to United and I loved it.
“I used to travel through from Glasgow – me, Jim McIntyre, Derek McInnes, Mark Kerr and Alan Archibald.
“We used to take turns driving up so I was like a wee boy compared to them.
“The five of them all went on to be managers so it was a good learning experience for me.”
Larsson, Lennon and Thompson were Mulgrew’s benchmark
Much like he looked up to that seasoned quintet, the former Blackburn, Wigan and Wolves man hopes to be the veteran in the dressing-room young stars can aspire to be.
Coming through at Parkhead, Mulgrew was surrounded by a plethora of household names.
“I realise I am an experienced player now and I am a bit older,” he continued.
“Nine times out of 10, most of the team will be younger than me.
“I will try to pass on my experience as best I can. I don’t really think too much about it. I just hope to lead by example, by the way I behave on a daily basis.
“Hopefully, I can help some young lads and they can speak to me if they need to.
“It is part of the reason I came here.
“When I came through at Celtic, I had Neil Lennon, Alan Thompson and Henrik Larsson to look up to.
“They are the benchmark for what you try to follow, copy and look up to.
“Hopefully I can help the young guys in some small way. That’s part of the reason why I am here.”
All change down Tannadice way
For all he’s looking to the past for inspiration and is delighted to be getting back to his roots in the game, Mulgrew admits things have changed massively, not only at United but in football in general.
As soon as he heard they were interested, United was “the only place” for the 44-times capped man.
You get the sense he’s just happy to be coming back to a club modernised and looking to push up the Premiership table, compared to the one he left all those years ago.
Mulgrew added: “It’s great to be back. When I found out there was interest, it was the only place I wanted to come.
“I know it gets said a lot but, genuinely, that’s how I felt because I had been here before and it is a great club.
“I enjoyed it here, I had a good relationship with the fans and I loved everything about the club.
“I am delighted to be back.
“It has changed massively, even the facilities are like night and day.
“We used to get changed at the stadium and jump in a mini bus not knowing where we were going to train. It changed from day to day.
“So it is great to have a base at St Andrews with all the facilities you need.
“They are the wee percentages that make things better and improve things on the pitch.
“Everything that goes into the game now with sports science, diet, rest and double sessions, it is important that you have the facilities so it is great that we have them here.”
Buddy Broonie will be foe on opening day
United’s first league game of the forthcoming campaign is up at Aberdeen on August 1.
For all it’s a New Firm derby, Mulgrew and his former Celtic skipper Scott Brown, now player-coach at the Dons, will be friendly foes at Pittodrie.
Mulgrew’s hoping to come out on top in that one, a repeat of his first debut for the club – a 3-2 Scottish Cup defat at Tannadice in 2006.
“My first ever game for Dundee United was against Aberdeen,” he recalled.
“It is funny how things work out, with me against him on the first day.
“I was surprised he left Celtic when it was first announced but when you weighed up all the things and when I spoke to him, I realised that he was doing it for the right reasons.
“I think it made sense for both him and the club.
“I think he was happy enough and it was a good decision.
“We will probably have a wee chat before the game. He is a friend of mine and somebody I have huge respect for. Aberdeen had got themselves a top player there.”
Mulgrew right behind new boss Courts
Not only will Mulgrew be tasked with helping guide inexperienced players into the Tangerines’ first team, he’ll be working under Courts – a relatively untried boss at top-flight level.
After meeting his new manager, however, the veteran defender has no reservations whatsoever about working under the 39-year-old.
In fact, Mulgrew was impressed by Courts vision for the future and can’t wait to get started, helping out in any way he can.
“It is new for him to manage at this level but he spoke very well,” Mulgrew commented.
“I was very impressed by the way he wants to put the team together and his vision for this club.
“If I can help him along the way – and I said that to him – then I am here to do that.
“I will train as hard as I can. I think it is important to train every day as if it is your last, which is how you improve as a team.
“There are good young players here and good experience. It is a good mixture so, hopefully, I can help the manager.
“But I am sure he will be up for the challenge.”