Celtic’s Callum McGregor could mark title win with a century

Callum McGregor is alone among his academy peers in becoming a first-team regular at Celtic. Picture: SNS.
Callum McGregor is alone among his academy peers in becoming a first-team regular at Celtic. Picture: SNS.
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It could be a weekend of landmarks for Callum McGregor. Should Aberdeen lose at home to Hearts this lunchtime, the Celtic midfielder could land a third league winners’ medal
by then helping his team 
claim victory at Dens Park tomorrow.

It would be the perfect way to bring up a 100th appearance for his boyhood club. Yet each day of the 23-year-old’s career signposts a singular success.

It is 14 years since McGregor first pulled on a Celtic jersey in an official capacity. These have been his colours aside from the season he spent on loan with Notts County three years ago.

The value of that stint is brought to mind as he stands on the verge of the three figures and another major honour at his club – achievements entirely beyond any childhood contemporaries.

“Going on loan was a big help, it really benefited me,” McGregor said. “I was just young when I went down to England and it taught me a lot.

“It’s great to come back and then go on to make 100 appearances for the club I joined when I was nine.

“There is no one really left from my age group [in senior football]. I came through with Dylan McGeouch but apart from us there’s no one really left. It shows how hard it is, so obviously I’ve done something right.

“[The 100] is a special milestone. It’s something I’m especially proud of in being a Glasgow boy and coming through the academy. I heard a few weeks ago I was on 94 so it will be good to clock up the 100 and it would be even more special if I could do it on the same day as winning the league.”

The loss of a late equaliser against Rangers last Sunday to end a sequence of 22 league wins by Brendan Rodgers’ men might have “slightly felt like a setback”, McGregor concedes, but he is quick to place it in the context of a 35-game unbeaten domestic season that, with 33 of these wins, Celtic assistant Chris Davies described yesterday as “phenomenal”.

Representing a record for such a run from day one of a Scottish domestic season, another will be added if Rodgers’ side are officially 
crowned champions on 
19 March.

The Celtic squad will not be glued to their televisions this afternoon willing on Hearts at Pittodrie to claim the win that would give them a shot at more history away to Dundee.

“I think we’ll just check the result as it comes in,” said McGregor. “A big part of why we’ve been so successful is because we’ve just focused on our own stuff and let other teams get on with what they’re doing.

“It would be a great achievement and excellent if we could go and do it. Of course, the record is an incentive.”

Which one, might be the call, with no Scottish team ever avoiding defeat across a whole campaign on the home front in more than a 100 years.

While it is a figure McGregor will perceive warmly, the midfielder himself has been warmly received by Rodgers. Many considered that after making the breakthrough under Ronny Deila, he would be a casualty of the new era that began last summer.

McGregor may not play every week, but Rodgers set him up as the role model for Leigh Griffiths in questioning the striker’s conditioning recently.

The Celtic manager said he could slot McGregor into every role, call on him on every occasion at a moment’s notice, and he would be ready and able to contribute.

“You want to do your best any time the manager calls on you. I’m happy any time the manager wants me to play in any position,” he said. “It’s good to hear him say nice things but I always work hard in training so I am ready to go”

Davies, meanwhile, yesterday wasn’t ready to take the bait provided by new Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha with his comment this week that the Ibrox club have a better squad than Celtic – despite being 33 points adrift of them.

“I was told about that, I didn’t actually see it,” Davies said. “Everyone can have their own opinion. I think it’s pretty clear for anybody looking at the league, where it’s at.

“We have certainly had an incredible season judging by that comment.

“But we’re fine, we’re focused on ourselves, we do our talking on the pitch and we take care of business on the pitch and we’ll always be that way.”