Celtic star hailed 'ideal footballer' as change of position gives Brendan Rodgers food for thought

Celtic's Callum McGregor played further forward in the 4-1 win over Hibs on Wednesday. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)Celtic's Callum McGregor played further forward in the 4-1 win over Hibs on Wednesday. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Celtic's Callum McGregor played further forward in the 4-1 win over Hibs on Wednesday. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Celtic manager dishes out high praise after switch of roles in 4-1 victory over Hibs

Celtic captain Callum McGregor earned glowing praise from manager Brendan Rodgers as he rolled back the years in a more advanced midfield role in the 4-1 win over Hibs on Wednesday.

The Scotland international has been controlling games from the base of the Celtic midfield in recent years after initially making the breakthrough as a more attack-minded player in his early 20s which included a 14-goal season on loan at Notts County.

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But with Tomoki Iwata handed his first start of the campaign against the men from Leith, it allowed McGregor, now 30, to turn back the clock as he dovetailed with Matt O'Riley in one of two more advanced positions in front of the deep-lying Japanese midfielder.

“I really enjoy watching him," Rodgers said of his skipper. "He takes me back to my first time here. He’s such a special player for this team in so many ways, and for the club as a whole.

“From a psychological perspective, to have the desire, the mentality and the hunger to continually want to succeed is phenomenal really. I’ve played him in virtually every position bar goalkeeper and centre half in my two spells. He’s just tactically brilliant in the game.

“Putting him up one, you can see what he can do. He can get forward, he’s clever, he can link the game and he can get shots off. He’s got big quality to score goals – in my first time here, he was very, very good at that.

“I thought him and Matty were excellent against Hibs. Matt is so graceful around the pitch and played with big quality the other night. Tomo just stabilises it in there, to win the ball and play it simple.”

With Reo Hatate injured, and both David Turnbull and Paulo Bernardo struggling to hold down a regular place, Celtic fans could be plenty more of McGregor's ability to play further forward in the coming weeks, particularly after Iwata showed up well in the anchor role against Hibs.

It has been in Rodgers thinking for some time.

“It would have happened before but he [Iwata] wasn’t available," the Celtic boss explained. "Whatever the game needs, that’s something we will look at. He’s shown up very well in training and in the games where he’s come in, he’s done well.

“Against a good side like Hibs, you can see it’s something that can function well."

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On McGregor’s flexibility giving him food for thought, Rodgers added: “Because he’s so, so clever, you really only ever have to tell him anything once. You’re not having to repeat anything with him.

“He’s an absolutely incredible player and captain of the team. Whether he plays as an 8, an inverted full back, a controller, wherever, he plays the game to the highest level.

“He’s a brilliant example for the other players. If you talk about an ideal footballer, having mental strength and the ability to interpret different systems, being competitive, having quality and being physically brave, he’s all of that.

“He progresses the ball quickly - that’s the key for Callum. The ball comes through the pitch quickly, and when you want to play fast football that really helps.

“He’s the ideal footballer you would want in your team."



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