Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor insists he is far better equipped now to make an impression for Scotland than when he earned his previous call-up for the national side almost three years ago.
A recent run of outstanding displays by the 23-year-old – capped by his artful goal in the 2-0 Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Rangers on Sunday – means he has a strong claim to be included in Gordon Strachan’s squad for the World Cup qualifier against England at Hampden on 10 June.
McGregor was first named in a Scotland squad when Strachan’s side opened their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign away to world champions Germany in August 2014. He says he has made great strides since, particularly this season which has seen him “improving everything” in his game under Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.
“It was fairly early on in my career that I got the first call,” said McGregor. “With all the different experiences that I have had, Champions League and big games like that and on Sunday, I think I would be more prepared to go in and do a job.”
McGregor hasn’t spoken to Strachan, who was at the national stadium on Sunday, and the midfielder has not booked any holidays for the close season either. Nothing can be read into either of these facts but McGregor is unabashed about where he wants to be on 10 June as he seeks to make his career mark on the biggest stages.
“As a footballer you want to play at the highest level you can and to represent your country. You don’t really get much better than that. As a young boy you think about growing up and playing for Scotland but it is up to me to keep working hard and keep trying to push for the squad.”
The fact there is a distinctly Celtic hue to the Scotland squad can only help his case, McGregor believes. Six of his team-mates played in the recent victory over Slovenia that kept alive Scotland’s slim hopes of making the play-offs for Euro 2018 and the midfielder sees only benefits if he was able to link up with Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong in a central midfield triangle for his country as the trio do at Celtic, and be surrounded by team-mates Leigh Griffiths, Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Craig Gordon. It would be history-making with no Scotland team in the modern day having ever featured seven players from one club.
“It would help me me obviously if I was to get the call because there would be so many familiar faces,” added McGregor. “But I think it can also help Scotland if there are a lot of Celtic boys in the squad. We know each other’s game so if you can build a squad around that you’re off to a good start.”