U21 Callum McGregor now playing ‘man’s football’

Callum McGregor in training as he prepares to take on Slovakia. Picture: SNS

Callum McGregor in training as he prepares to take on Slovakia. Picture: SNS

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Scotland Under-21 playmaker Callum McGregor says he has had to grow up both on and off the pitch since leaving Celtic on loan.

The 20-year-old midfielder has been sent south to Notts County in a bid to prepare him for life as a fully-fledged first-team player with the Parkhead giants. And the move has paid off so far with six goals in his first 12 games for the Sky Bet League One outfit.

But McGregor – who hopes to win his first Under-21 cap for his country against Slovakia tonight – admits he has had to mature quickly after moving away from Glasgow for the first time.

He said: “It was a bit of a shock to the system when I moved south. I’ve been at Celtic since I was ten. It was a massive change but it has paid off so far.

“It was time for a change and for me to grow up. I’ve had to handle it. I’m living away from my family and friends, but I’ve had to toughen up and deal with it.

“I’ve got a flat in the city centre. I’m now living on my own and making my own meals. My cooking isn’t bad and the flat is tidy enough – my mum is a wee bit shocked by it all.

“League One in England is a lot more competitive, a lot more physical than the youth leagues in Scotland. But if you want to play down there, you have just got to toughen up and handle it.

“In the youth leagues, you are always controlling the game as most teams just come and sit in against us at Celtic. But at Notts County there is a lot more to fight for. It’s man’s football and points at stake.”

McGregor shot to prominence when he grabbed Celtic’s winning goal in their pre-season friendly with Brentford.

It was his display against the London side which sparked County’s interest in him and he has repaid their faith in them with a string impressive displays, most recently netting a double in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Crewe.

That was Chris Kiwomya’s side’s second win in three games but came after they lost six of their first seven in the league.

McGregor admits it has been a tough start for his new side but now wants to carry his impressive form onto the international stage as he waits to hear if he will be given his first Under-21 run-out in Thursday’s Euro 2015 qualifier in Paisley.

“It’s been tough to begin with at Notts County,” said McGregor. “I scored on my debut and was flying after that. But the first six or seven league games were really tough against really good sides. I think six of our first eight games were against sides from the top six.

“But for me it was always about trying to find my feet as quickly as possible. Recently we have had some good performances so hopefully our luck has turned.”

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