Callum McGregor inspired by Celtic captains and greats of old as he looks to bag first trophy as skipper
NOBODY can accuse Callum McGregor of not knowing his history. Not when it comes to the long list of storied Celtic captains who preceded him in the role, and the weight of expectation now on his shoulders because of what they achieved.
Far from being an albatross around his neck though, McGregor is using the example of the legends of the past as an inspiration for what he wants to achieve in the future, and in the very near future at that.
His immediate aim is to get the first trophy in the cabinet as club captain, and to do that, he will first have to lead his team to victory over the holders of both domestic cup competitions, St Johnstone, at Hampden this evening.
The League Cup may not be top of Celtic’s priorities this season, but it is a priority nonetheless, and there is little doubting the importance of winning it for McGregor as he looks to make his own mark as Celtic captain – just as those who went before him did.
“You look at the names on that list and it inspires you,” McGregor said.
“You want to be a winning captain at Celtic, nobody wants to be a captain that doesn’t win anything, so I’m very conscious that’s at the forefront of my mind, and I’m pretty sure everyone else’s minds as well.
“I’ve got to do everything I can firstly to help the team, do what the manager is asking me to do, and then try to help the players as well to get over the line when these occasions come around.
“The first of them is Saturday, and trying to progress into a final, and then we look at it from there.
“That’s something that we want to do as a team.”
The echoes of the glories of the past are never far from the ears of a Celtic player, and the sad passing of Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld this week was another reminder of the heights that this club once scaled.
Auld, of course, had his own inspirational captain in the form of the late Billy McNeill, and McGregor is acutely aware of his duty not only to represent Celtic in the way that they did, but to also follow their lead by passing on that responsibility to the next generation.
“You carry it with you every day that you’re responsible for the success of the club and you’ll give absolutely everything to do that,” he said.
“When you see guys like Bertie and Billy, who are remembered so well, you know that you have a responsibility to make the next group of players successful and that’s what I’m working hard to do every day, and the players have been absolutely top class as well.
“We need to try to achieve that together and put a tribute together for Bertie at the weekend.
“I remember meeting him in the players’ lounge once when I wasn’t in the squad – a young boy trying to break through.
“It was the measure of him that he knew exactly who I was and what stage of my development I was at. He just gave me a few words to push me in the right direction – to make sure that I was on the pitch.
“He was somebody who helped the young ones so much.”
That education in what playing for Celtic means and demands from players extends to the fleet of new arrivals who have come into the club since new manager Ange Postecoglou appointed McGregor as their captain.
“They see the faces around the place, the pictures, and some of the new guys ask, ‘Who’s this?’ and ‘Who’s that?’ and you fill them in,” he said.
“Celtic’s just so built-on tradition and built-on history and anybody who comes to the club can see that and how much the history means to people that are in the building.
“The new players take a massive interest in it.”
As McGregor knows well, the League Cup can also be a building block towards the overall collective success of the team throughout the season, as it was in the Quadruple Treble winning years.
And ultimately, it will be this team’s ability to overcome hurdles like today’s that decides where their legacy will lie.
“It is important,” he said. “When you start the season with new players and a new manager and you start building good results and performances you know that ultimately judged on success and win trophies.
“In the early part of a successful period, it’s those trophies that come early that give you the real belief and a bit more incentive to keep going. You know that you’re on the right track, so they are important.
“You can put performances together and results but one thing at this club is that you need to win the big games when they come around.
“It’s been a good progression from where we started at the beginning of the season. When you get close to making finals and winning silverware, that’s where the separation is between the good teams and the great teams.”
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