Spooked Celtic hero shoots down Hampden question - ' I know it’s going to come to an end'

Celtic captain Callum McGregor will lead his team out once again in a Scottish Cup final.Celtic captain Callum McGregor will lead his team out once again in a Scottish Cup final.
Celtic captain Callum McGregor will lead his team out once again in a Scottish Cup final.
The Celtic captain has an enviable record at Hampden with his club

Callum McGregor isn’t a man for superstition but, whatever his big match routine involves, it appears to be working.

The Celtic midfielder will lead his team out for another Scottish Cup final with all signs, both recent and historical, pointing towards the day concluding with him lifting the trophy for the sixth time and the second as captain. McGregor has been over this course so many times that his every move feels almost pre-programmed. That it is Rangers lying in wait will add a fresh dimension but given Celtic’s recent dominance of the derbies it is not enough of a factor to knock the champions off course. A squad of serial winners and achievers, this is their trophy to lose.

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“It’s been a great period of success,” says McGregor with a dollop of understatement. “Just personally being involved in that – it gives you a great grounding and a great standing in the game and understanding of what it takes to be successful. That process was probably already in place by the time I got there. You’re just learning and trying to pick up things from everybody but you obviously also draw on your own experience, the four trebles that we did, how to manage pressure in situations and things like that.

“It certainly gives you a good template of what to do and how to manage the occasion. You’ve then got to revert back to what your process is and how you stay calm and what you’re actually looking for in the game. I think if you do that then it slides the scale in your favour because your process generally works, the way we play generally works.”

McGregor has never lost a Hampden cup final, although mentioning that fact seems to be the only thing that spooks him. “Don’t say it! Listen, I know it’s going to come to an end at some point, but every time we reach one…” he tails off. “We set out the targets at the start of the season and I like to think of myself as someone who wants to win everything that they go into.

“When you are put in these situations, when I get up in the morning, I want to be going back to bed a winner, you want to have that winning feeling. That’s just the way I’ve tried to approach my whole career, and so far, it has stood me in good stead. I don’t want to jinx it, I’ll be preparing the same way that I always do, and hopefully when the moment comes, we’ll grab it, and we will be successful.”

Both teams will try to block out the fact that it’s the first Old Firm Scottish Cup final since 2002 but McGregor knows it is a different experience for the supporters. “It’s hard to get away from it in the lead up to these games,” he admits. “You go and pick up a coffee and it’s all that anyone is talking about, or you go into petrol stations and everything else. So, of course you feel the magnitude of the game and what it means to the supporters. But that is what fuels us in terms of trying not to let them down and trying not to let ourselves or the club down.”



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