When I first started following Celtic, I never thought that one day I would get the chance to speak to our skipper, Callum McGregor, and Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers. Yesterday – I did just that!
I was given the opportunity to attend a pre-match press conference at Celtic Park ahead of our game against Feyenoord, to represent The Celtic Star. I arrived, and for the first time in my journalistic career, got to go behind-the-scenes of the stadium that I’ve been in the stands of so many times before.
I walked into a room with a fantastic pitch-side view and desperately tried not to get in the way of the people setting up cameras throughout the room. After a little stroll around the Number 7 restaurant, I took my seat in the second row. My notepad was prepared, and my phone was ready to record.
Surrounded by people from Sky Sports, BBC, and other major outlets – yet I didn’t feel out of my depth. In the past, I’ve had a lot of imposter syndrome, but I suppose that disappears when the captain of your football team is metres away from you.
Callum McGregor took to his seat, and they passed a microphone around the room. With the cameras rolling, I would be lying if I said my heart wasn’t beating out of my chest, but that’s all a part of the job.
Eventually it was my turn, and I asked my questions. I asked Callum if there were any minor improvements, they would have to make to have a chance against Feyenoord. He said: “I think concentration is the biggest one. I think when you come to this level you can’t switch off for a second and that’s probably been the thing that’s killed us the most.”
Of course, I had to ask about the importance of supporters on a European night in getting a positive result. He said: “It’s huge. I mean you look at the Atletico Madrid game here and I think it’s probably as good a performance as anyone has seen here without actually winning the game, which we probably deserved on the night. We limited them to very little.
“That’s a combination of the team giving everything and the supporters giving everything. When that happens, there’s a special combination there that makes it very difficult for even top teams to come here and play.”
Before I knew it, it was time to get my questions for Brendan Rodgers prepared. I had done a lot of prep beforehand and by the time it got to me, the two questions I had picked from the start had not been asked yet.
I asked about improvements that he will be looking for tomorrow night. Brendan replied: “I think in terms of these games, I’ve always said they’re games about belief. Callum’s absolutely right from a mental perspective your concentration is so important.
“The technical level of players here means they can get through the pitch very quickly, and all of a sudden, they’re in on your back-line. Lots of teams at this level have quality at the front end of the pitch so that concentration is important. When you have the ball, it’s all about having that belief and the poise to look after the ball and to attack with speed, but also to be able to play at tempo.”
“That’s something we always aim to do here within the team. Most importantly, as soon as the whistle goes then you go and attack the game, and that is when we are at our best.
“We’ve shown that here on a number of games and when we do that, we look a really good side. You know within the game that you have to defend and you’re going to have to be strong, with a little bit of luck along the way. If you can do that, then hopefully you can have a great night.”
Next, I asked the Celtic manager about the positives that he can take from the campaign. He responded: “I look through each game and there have been spells where I’ve been really happy with things, like the start in Feyenoord right up to half-time when we lose a poor goal. The Lazio game here we should have taken something from that game and didn’t. That concentration lapse cost us. The Madrid game at home was a really good performance and a really exciting game against a really good side.
“We’ve shown that we cannot just compete but our footballing ability too. It’s just about sustaining that, and you can’t drop off in your next games. Madrid away was a tough evening for us, and when you lose a player at that level the opposition can punish you, and they did.
“I’ve seen a lot in a lot of the games to know that if we keep improving our experience and look to improve the squad then we hopefully can make another step forward.”
We wrapped up after a few more questions from other journalists in the room, and I was on my way. I left with a grin on my face and a thirst for more!
My first in-person press conference was a fantastic experience and I can’t thank both The Celtic Star and Celtic FC enough for giving me this opportunity. As much as Brendan Rodgers has been getting a lot of hate online recently, I’m backing the boss. I think he can do a great job here at Celtic and I hope he will be around long enough to show it.
Both media conferences can be watched below, courtesy of Celtic TV….