Speaking on this week’s episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly, guest panelist Hamish Carton said:
“I can’t pinpoint the moment when Callum McGregor became the main guy. The most amazing Celtic captain!”
It’s hard to single out just when that transition took place, but what is absolutely clear is that McGregor is now firmly the focal point of the Celtic team.
At 29 years of age the captain is homing in on his 400th appearance for the club and it’s now hard to imagine the Celtic side without him.
Both in terms of what he brings as a midfielder, and as a leader.
His return from injury on Saturday to provide a Man of the Match performance – topped by scoring the only goal of the game – sums up just what the Scotland international brings to the table.
As an aside he singlehandedly out-passed the whole Aberdeen side in that game, with his 170 completed passes outstripping their 118 by some distance.
A LENGTHY SUCCESS STORY
They say it takes a long time to become an overnight success and that certainly applies in the case of McGregor.
Incredibly his Celtic journey began over 20 years ago as an 8 year old in the club’s youth academy where he cites Tommy Burns amongst others as positive influences on his fledgling career.
Since then he’s featured under no less than 4 Celtic Managers with Ronny Deila, Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon and now Ange Postecoglou all trusting him to perform in the Celtic midfield.
It was Deila who saw enough in McGregor to give him his first team debut back in July 2014 in a vital Champions League qualifier away to KR Reykjavik.
That faith was rewarded with McGregor scoring the only goal of the game in Iceland.
This of course wasn’t his first introduction to senior football.
A loan spell at Notts County in the 2013/14 season saw him gain vital experience at first team level as he went on to become the club’s top goalscorer with 14 goals in League One.
There’s some irony in the fact that he also scored on his debut for County. This time against Fleetwood Town, who are now managed by his former midfield partner, Scott Brown.
POSTECOGLOU’S ON FIELD LEADER
He’s played a key role for each manager following Deila, providing notable success along the way, but it was Postecoglou who increased his Celtic status yet further with the decision to appoint him as Club captain shortly after his arrival at Celtic Park.
Speaking at the time Postecoglou said:
“Callum is a player who leads by example, both on and off the park, and he is a key figure in our squad.
He has been at Celtic since he’s been a boy, he’s come through our academy, had a loan spell away from the club to gain vital experience, and then returned to establish himself in the first-team.
His qualities as a player are there for all to see, and that has been evident over the past few years.”
McGregor rose to the challenge, leading Celtic to League and Cup Double success in Postecoglou’s maiden season and instantly vindicating the decision to give him the armband.
BUILDING A LEGACY
McGregor himself spoke of his pride when given the captaincy in July of last year:
“To be the Celtic captain is a great honour for any player, and to be given the captaincy is a very proud moment for me and my family.
“I know I’m following in the footsteps of some great names in the club’s history, and I’ve been able to learn from one of the best in Scott Brown over the past few years.
“I’m delighted that the manager has put his trust in me by giving me the captain’s armband. It’s a new era for the club and I’m looking forward to playing my part in that.”
He’s more than played his part.
He’s exceeded all expectations in the role.
And with two trophies already in the bag as skipper, who would be foolish enough to bet against him adding at least a couple more this season as he continues to build his own legacy as Celtic Captain..
We cover the “Evolution of Callum McGregor” in the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly.