The Celtic midfielder became a cause celebre after Gordon Strachan left him out of the Scotland set-up for the wins over Lithuania and Malta in the last week. Those victories mean the country’s previously wafer-thin prospects of making the World Cup play-offs have improved markedly, with Scotland’s fate in their own hands provided they beat Slovakia and Slovenia in their final two qualifiers next month.
Before those games, McGregor hopes to have two Champions League experiences to savour in his club’s group opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain next Tuesday and away to Anderlecht a fortnight later. If he plays – no certainty – and shines – a tall order – in those encounters, then he could become impossible for Strachan to ignore come the Group F shakedown for Scotland.
“There are massive Celtic games in the next month and I have to do well, score goals, help the boys and do well in the Champions league and see what follows,” said McGregor.
The 25-year-old has “no complaints” about watching Scotland’s double-header from his living room on the back of the performances that six of his club team-mates were instrumental in delivering.
Scottish football pundits did all his complaining for him, with McGregor’s snub the subject of endless discussion in the press, radio and social media and prompting a dismayed response from Brendan Rodgers.
“It’s nice that people are recognising that I should be there, but I stay off social media and phone-ins and the like and I just focus on my club’s stuff and getting feedback from my own manager,” he said. “Obviously, my club manager sees what I can do and he likes me and has said that a few times – it’s great to have his backing.”
McGregor was happy to offer his backing to Celtic’s recent loan signings Odsonne Edouard and Patrick Roberts. The French teenager Edouard has spoken about scoring against his parent club PSG. Next week’s match-up could mark his debut, as it could for the French club’s very own loanee Kylian Mbappe, brought from Monaco with a view to a £166m permanent deal.
McGregor isn’t daunted about the prospect of Celtic having to face the twin threats of Neymar and Mbappe. In Edouard and Roberts, Rogers’ men could have forward options, aside from Leigh Griffiths, capable of causing problems for the French champions.
“I think Edouard would be ready,” said the Celtic playmaker. “He’s looked sharp in the past couple of days at training. If the manager throws him in, I’m sure he’ll do well. Having Patrick back is a huge positive. It’s a great signing. You saw what he did last season – he was destroying teams on his own pretty much. You see he’s got that real quality and we’re delighted to have him back. ”
McGregor is convinced that Celtic can be competitive against world football’s biggest spenders, and PSG’s 6-1 loss to Barcelona that saw the French side squander a 5-0 advantage in the quarter-finals last season provides a straw the player seizes.
“That does give you hope,” McGregor said. “You never know what team is going to show up at Celtic Park. We can try and get after them and, if they are not quite at it, we might get a result. It’s obvious that these boys are top, top players. You can see that when you face them. There’s that wee shift and they are thinking two steps ahead of everyone else on the field. That’s why they are top players in the world.
“It’s just important for us to try to match that on the night and over the course of the six games.
“But our players won’t be fazed by it. You have obviously got to respect the opponent but, when the games comes around, it won’t be a case of respecting them too much.
“You never know. Teams come to Celtic Park and things have happened in that unbelievable atmosphere. You can’t say how they are going to perform on the day. We’ll come up with a game-plan and do the best we can to try to get a result.”
l McGregor was speaking at the Topps SPFL Match Attax 2017/18 trading card event at Hampden.