Callum McGregor's incredible cup record - but he pleads 'don't jinx me'

It shouldn’t be just the armband Celtic have for Callum McGregor on the bus taking their squad to Hampden for Sunday’s Premier Sports Cup final.

Celtic's Callum McGregor was speaking at a Premier Sports Cup event. Premier Sports is available on Sky, Virgin TV and the Premier Player from £12.99 per month, and on Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.
Celtic's Callum McGregor was speaking at a Premier Sports Cup event. Premier Sports is available on Sky, Virgin TV and the Premier Player from £12.99 per month, and on Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.

The club ought to consider creating a plinth at the front of the vehicle for the Celtic captain to sit on as a human mascot. That is called for because, both as man and boy, the 28-year-old has been involved in no fewer than 13 finals at the national stadium. Only a single element links them all: Celtic have triumphed in every one.

Before he made his senior breakthrough at the club, McGregor earned four winners medals in the Hampden-staged Youth Cup finals of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 – featuring from the start in three, with the other badge earned as he wasn’t called from the bench.

A particular midas touch in the south side of Glasgow on trophy-settling occasions has followed him into his adulthood. McGregor played in every one of the eight domestic finals covering the seasons from 2016-17 to 2019-20 that snared Celtic an historic quadruple treble. To those honours he can add the winners medal from the 2015 League Cup final win over Dundee United picked up as an unused substitute. A phenomenal unbeaten record in showpieces at the national stadium, it is one the Celtic midifelder is reluctant to discuss for an obvious reason.

“Don’t jinx me,” he said fearfully when asked to confirm his anything but lucky 13, before deploying masterful understatement in assessing the extraordinary sequence. “My record’s pretty good there and obviously we hope to continue that on Sunday, but that becomes a lot of hard work – preparation, dedication and a wee bit of good luck as well along the road. I’ll need to kick on all those things to have a good day … but here’s hoping.”

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McGregor doesn’t deny his experience of navigating these fraught occasions can serve both him and the team he will lead well. Celtic may have been untouchable for the best part of four years in the domestic game, but they had to come through tight spots in the Scottish Cup finals of 2017 and 2019, requiring to come from behind against Aberdeen and Hearts, respectively, as well as hang on with ten men against Rangers in the 2019 League Cup final. McGregor is prepared for Ange Postecoglou’s men to have to show their mettle – as they did in fashioning a 97th-minute winner in midweek away to Ross County to register a sixth straight victory across all competitions.

“Everybody would love it to be an easy game with no pressure, but finals are never like that,” he said. “There’s always a period in the game when you’re under pressure and the other team are in the game, so the experience you can draw on can help you through that and stand you in good stead. You need all that.”

Sunday will be notably distinct from any previous such experience for McGregor owing to the midfielder having assumed the captaincy in the summer following the departure of Scott Brown. As his predecessor did regularly, McGregor’s role now sees him tasked with climbing up the Hampden stairs first to lift the trophy should success be secured. He hasn’t dared allow himself to envisage such a moment, or consider adopting his final approach because of his added responsibilities.

“In terms of preparation and doing the right things going into the game, it’ll feel pretty similar,” he said. “The worst thing you can do is overthink it and start doing things differently. It’s a process and if you trust the process and it works you stick with that. There’s obviously the tag of being captain but I’m not even thinking about that. I just want to perform and help the team to take the trophy and that’s my sole focus.”

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