“Aye you’re alright” – Celtic Shut Down Fashion Sakala Final Question

Callum McGregor earlier today spoke to the media ahead of Sunday’s Glasgow Derby League Cup Final. Here’s what the captain had to say about the build-up, the team’s training this week and his own experience of Glasgow Derby fixtures.

First up Callum was asked what’s needed in a player to be successful in the Glasgow Derby Cup Final environment. “A lot of things. You have to play well and you need a bit of luck as well. The main thing for us is just to stay focused and continue to do what we’ve been doing. The team is in a good rhythm and good form. So, if we bring that to the game along with our other qualities, like concentration and staying calm, I think we’ll be okay.”

Callum McGregor arriving at the stadium. Photo Steve Welsh

And when asked if the team was in better form now than when Celtic visited Ibrox in January and grabbed a 2-2 goal with a virus hit squad, the captain picked out new signing Alistair Johnston for some well-deserved individual praise as well as highlighting Celtic’s impressive goalscoring form and strong defensive performances.

“We’re probably in good momentum, and we had a few boys join us. It was Ally’s first game as well, he’s settled into the system really well, and our front guys have been paying really well, scoring a lot of goals, and we’ve not been conceding a lot of goals. The team’s been really cohesive and that’s the best preparation we can have going into a game like this.”

The Celtic captain was also asked about how he handles the ebb and flow of games, how he keeps himself focused, even when moments in the game may go against him.  “Obviously you just try and stay focused on the game plan we bring to the game. There will be moments in any game that don’t go your way, it’s just important to react in the right way.

Callum McGregor and Kyogo after the 2-1 win over Livingston. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“If someone gives the ball away, our first reaction is to try and win it back, and get a good shape behind the ball. There’s always going to be moments that go against you, like when we went 2-1 down in the last game and we managed to find a way back into the game. So, it’s just sticking to your principles and what gets you success.”

And the Captain was also asked if the dynamic changes when you are the team on top, in comparison to when you are in a team who viewed as ‘the chasers’, with McGregor claiming whether ‘top dogs’ or not, there is little difference when there is a cup final to be won.

“I don’t think that plays a part at all in the game to be honest. It’s a cup final, it’s a one-off occasion and the way we look at cup football is, if you don’t get it right on the day, you don’t progress or you don’t win,” the Celtic captain said.

“We’ve just taken the same approach as we always do and prepared the same way, trained really hard this week, and when the game comes around then we understand what knock-out football is about, and you have to be right on the day to win it and that’s exactly what we’re looking to do. “

With Ange Postecoglou this week stating the cup-final was not just like any other week, Callum was also asked what a Cup Final week is like for a Celtic captain. “Everyone knows it’s a big game, a game of consequence, and I’ve always said as a football player you want to be involved in big games where things are on the line.

IMAGO / PA Images . Aberdeen v Celtic – cinch Premiership – Pittodrie Callum McGregor celebrates. Photo Steve Welsh

“So, that’s what excites you as a player and you know what’s coming at the end of the week. But I believe you need to have a process, to trust your process and what gets you success and what’s had success over recent times. Then I think it’s important that you stick to that and you have experience through the good times and the bad times. And when the occasion comes, then the game’s there to be played.

” In terms of preparation of course you’re excited, you’re looking forward to the game, but you have to stick to your process throughout the week. Our focus is always on the next game. The next game is always the biggest game, and of course that is Sunday.

“We prepare the same way, and it’s obviously important in the context of the season as well. If we go on and be successful, then of course it gives us a bounce to continue the rest of the season, and try and be as successful as we can. And I think that’s the most important thing.

“And me myself personally, that doesn’t come into it at all. We’ll get the rewards as a team if we turn up and do all the right things, and then we can have that conversation after the game. As far as I’m concerned, the full focus is on the players, and what we have to do on Sunday.”

Callum McGregor of Celtic speaks with Ryan Kent of Rangers during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Rangers FC at on February 02, 2022. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Callum was also asked if a cup final is any bigger or any sweeter if you do beat theRangers, given they’re Celtic’s biggest rivals.

“Of course, when there’s trophies on the line it’s always sweet if you can get them. I speak about Cup football all the time and if you’re not right then you don’t even get to the final, and to play theRangers in the final, it adds that special feeling to it. It will be a good spectacle for the fans, and everybody in Scottish football, but I think for us as players we have to approach it the same way. We haven’t changed our approach.

“Whatever competition it’s been in home or away, it doesn’t really matter, we won’t have an eye on who the fixture is against. It’s how we prepare for the game. When we turn up the players know exactly what we have to give to the game to be successful, and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do.”

And asked whether it would be good to defeat rangers at Hampden having lost there in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final, in a question laden with desperate attempts to engineer a Hampden hoodoo response, McGregor admits that defeat stung, and will likely stay with him, even after his career, but claims he and the team want to put it right for the supporters.

“When you lose a big game like that it hurts you and it stays with you, probably for the rest of your career, the rest of your life. But it’s important when you get the chance to try and rectify it. Of course, you give absolutely everything to put that right and probably most importantly put it right for the supporters as well.

Of course, we have that added motivation that they got one over us the last time (at Hampden) and we try to fix that but, the only way to fix that is to stay calm, stay focused and on what we’ve been doing, approach the game in the right way and come Sunday we have to do all the right things to win the game, and then that will be a consequence of that.”

Callum McGregor of Celtic celebrates with the Premier Sports Cup after victory in the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park on December 19, 2021 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Any after being asked about any lessons from playing Michael Beale’s theRangers, in January that Celtic could take into this game, McGregor gave an interesting insight into how theRangers altered their tactics during the last meeting at Ibrox in January.

“Of course, we’ll look at the game, we’ll analyse the game, as we do against everybody. In the terms of the way they defended they tried a couple of different systems, to defend against us. Obviously we started the game really well, they then had to change system. They then changed again in the second half. So obviously we’ll wait to see what they do out of possession, but we’ll look at the game where we think we can hurt them, look at where we think they’re strong and what we need to do to stop them.

“So, it’s the same preparation for every game. We do that for every game and come the game we have to find the solution on the pitch, within the 90 minutes or longer if need be.”

And with some January transfer signings now added to the squad, McGregor was asked if new players need a bit of guidance as to what a game like this means to the fans, especially if they come from out with Scotland.

“I think so. I think they probably find out quite quickly what it’s about within probably the first couple of weeks of signing. Of course, when you play them for the first time, you get a real feeling for what the fixtures like and what it’s about. I think the group are reasonably experienced in that now. We’ve had a couple join us since then but the momentum in the group is good.

“Living in Glasgow you know exactly what it’s about, and it’s just about the players staying calm. We trust ourselves, we trust the manager, and we trust in what we’re doing and I think if we put all those things together then hopefully, we can have a successful afternoon.”

Goalscorer Kyogo Furuhashi, Celtic Manager Angelos Postecoglou and captain Callum McGregor of Celtic celebrate with the trophy

In a similar question to earlier in the press conference, McGregor was asked if he had any added responsibilities as captain in a game like this, and in the build-up to such an important match

“People will look to myself for a bit of leadership, throughout the week. The good thing about this group is we’ve got a lot of leaders in the group as well. We train extremely hard every single day. We don’t come away from that because it’s a big game. We don’t change that because of who we’re playing.

“We have a real set way of working. Every single day we give our maximum, and for us as players and me as captain, we have to set that standards and every single day and I think that filters through the group, in terms of the message of how we want to approach every game”

“And again, it’s the same we go into a big game on Sunday, a game of consequence, but the most important thing is how we prepared this week and when we step over that line. We’re altogether we all have those leadership qualities, that hopefully make us successful and we have to bring that to the game.

Callum McGregor of Celtic celebrates with the Premier Sports Cup after victory in the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park on December 19, 2021. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Finally, well almost…McGregor was asked for his own personal highlight from playing against theRangers and he picked a belter.

“My first goal in the semi-final of the Scottish cup, I’ve had a good few other ones, but I’ll probably stick with that.”

And that wasn’t quite it. As after Celtic checked if there were any more questions before allowing Callum McGregor to call it a day, one hack decided to chance his arm. However, he didn’t get very far.

“Do you mind if I just ask Callum one more question?….“Fashion Sakala”…And that was as far as the hack’s line of questioning went, before being cut off with the retort from Celtic’s PR team of ’Aye you’re alright’!

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

1 Comment

  1. Spoken like a true captain respect no fight get tore in or the other mob he just said if we are calm focus for 90 minutes and play without fear as angi says to his players embrace the moment play at your best and I think most people will know will win but we want to win by playing football don’t want ref or var to make a talking point game getting shown round Europe and North America Asia ref have to prove he rise up to protect the name of scottish football and honesty