Scott Brown still a big influence at Celtic, insists Callum McGregor

Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor insists that Scott Brown remains a hugely influential figure at the club even as the club captain now finds himself on the bench.

Callum McGregor, right, is sure Scott Brown will return to the Celtic side as a major influence. Picture: SNS.

The 33-year-old appeared as a late substitute in the scintillating 5-1 victory over Kilmarnock that moved Brendan Rodgers’ men back to the top of the table, and has made only one start in the handful of games he has been available for since returning after a month out with a hamstring injury.

McGregor has taken possession of the deep-lying midfield berth for the Scottish champions previously the preserve of Brown, and believes he is reaching his peak in this new role.

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Yet he is convinced that Brown will return to the side – even as Rodgers said following the Kilmarnock thumping he could have no room for “sentimentality” in how he treated Brown, with “the level and the fluency of the team” being “clear” as a result of the “sensational” form of Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic and McGregor.

“Everybody knows how good a player Broony is,” said the 25-year-old Scotland international. “The team has been playing well and it’s always a tough one for the manager to decide who plays – and in what position.

“There is competition for places and I always feel that when you get the nod, you need to do well.

“Of course [it is strange that he is on the bench]. He’s been in the Celtic team for the last ten years. Every time he’s been fit, he’s played. Broony is a massive character for this club and it’s important we always remember that even when he isn’t playing. In the dressing-room, he is still there geeing everyone up. He is someone we can’t do without. Whether that is playing or not playing, he is still beneficial for the team.”

McGregor, meanwhile, acknowledges a mammoth collective effort will be required to achieve the result against Salzburg on Thursday that will take the club through to the last 32 of the Europa League.

Rodgers’ side need only avoid defeat against the runaway Austrian league leaders who are unbeaten this season. Yet, the Scotland international knows there can be no thought of playing for a draw.

“Salzburg were semi-finalists [in the competition] last season and we know how tough it’s going to be,” said McGregor.

“We are in a good vein of form. The stadium will be rocking and we want to have a good night. We have to go in looking to win.”