Callum McGregor: 'Players need to feel safe' as Celtic captain addresses Kris Boyd saga column in detail
That took the form of what was implied over the midfielder’s facial fractures and the protective covering that allowed him to return for his team’s 3-0 thumping of their derby rivals last Wednesday. A furore was created by the former Rangers and Scotland striker bemoaning that no-one in a lifeless Rangers side “tested” the mask that allowed McGregor to return only 11 days on from having two bones broken in the side of his cheek following an accidental collision in Celtic’s Scottish Cup win away to Alloa.
Boyd’s suggestion that Rangers players should have gone out to make contact with an area of the body that would never be expected to be targeted knowingly could give rise to the sense that endangering opponents could be fair game in the emotional environment of a derby. And it is this that McGregor understandably considers seriously crossed the line. Which Boyd must have recognised in subsequently seeking to explain the comments in the same newspaper, before phoning McGregor to apologise.
“I think first and foremost the players need to be safe,” said Celtic’s team leader. “It’s always an emotional game, both sets of supporters are super passionate about it and you obviously then get a cloud of expectation and emotion and everything else. I think we can’t forget the fact though that the players need to feel safe on the pitch. It’s a football match. We do our best to win it and when we do, everybody is in great spirits. That’s all we try to do, look after ourselves and win the football match and move on to the next one.
“It was disappointing when I got sent it [Boyd’s column], you can’t hide that fact. I think he realises now it was a poor choice of words and he’s sort of rectified the situation and tried to clarify it a little bit. Of course, though it was disappointing at the time, we’ve had a chat and everything is good now. We just move on and focus on the football now.”
McGregor believes that Celtic’s latest assignment, which takes them to Pittodrie, will demand full focus. Even to the exclusion of rekindling personal relationships. It was at the Granite City ground that Postecoglou’s team began to show they were made of strong stuff. The victory there in October was their first away in the league for eight months, and has given way to them moving to the top of the cinch Premiership table with 16 wins in an unbeaten 18-match run. They are now bidding for their third straight victory over Aberdeen, but the previous successes haven’t been cause for McGregor to rib the confidante from whom he took over the armband in the form of Scott Brown – who ended a 14-year association with Celtic to join Stephen Glass’s side in the summer.
“Nah not really...” the Celtic midfielder said. “We don’t speak before the games or anything like that. We’re both obviously wanting to win the game for our clubs. It’s going to be a good battle, he’s obviously a top, top player and has been for many years. He helped me so much in my development as well. We’ll always have that mutual respect, but as a sportsman you go on the pitch and you would do anything to win, and so would he.”
Everything within reason, that is.