Chris Sutton reckons that Callum McGregor’s recognition from his fellow professionals is well deserved. The Celtic captain as named as the PFA Scotland Player of the Year on Sunday and the former Celtic striker can understand why the players reached that decision even though his own choice for Player of the Year is McGregor’s teammate Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Writing in his weekly column in Daily Record, Sutton goes on to explain whey he reckons that CCV merits the award but before that is more than happy to praise the contribution as a player and as a leader that Callum McGregor has shown this season which is set to be rewarded with the biggest prize of all, the Scottish Premiership trophy next weekend when Motherwell are the visitors to Celtic Park on the final day of a league campaign that no-one outside of the optimistic wing of the Celtic support, expected.
“Of course, this is a game all about opinions and I wouldn’t quibble too much with the professionals who handed their accolade to McGregor,” Sutton noted. “Given what he has done this season, you have to take your hat off to him.
“McGregor grew up with success at Celtic being part of the Quadruple Treble gang, but it has been his response in adversity which has really shone through. It’s easy to look the part when everything is going well and you are sailing along.
“But McGregor had to go through plenty last season. As vice-captain last term, I lost count of the amount of times he stood in front of a camera and spoke with clarity and honesty about the problems and the issues that were around Celtic. It was natural that when Scott Brown left, he was going to step up into the role and it was a mighty task.
“The guy walked straight out of Scotland’s Euro 2020 camp having scored in the last game against Croatia and onto a training pitch to meet a new manager and start a pre-season in Wales when the club were in complete disarray. Postecoglou needed McGregor. He needed that senior voice to drag the rest along because any new manager will tell you that, if the senior players don’t buy into what you are doing, you are shot.
“McGregor did it. He led by example. It’s one thing to talk a good game, but it’s another to be the figurehead with your play. It didn’t start well for Postecoglou, but McGregor continued to speak properly. To do the right things, to keep preaching the mantra. To stick with the process and, not only believe in it, but to make the rest of the boys in the dressing room believe in it as well.
“McGregor’s performances have been out of the top drawer. Everyone knows his skills and his ability on the ball, but the way he can make an entire game tick is superb. Some of the displays, such as on one wet day in Motherwell last October, were simply sensational.
“In big moments, you need your skipper to step forward and for him to go out and lead the troops with a broken cheekbone against Rangers wearing a protective mask and yet still set the tempo in the biggest game spoke volumes for him.
“A couple of months later at Ibrox, he took another by the scruff of the neck after Celtic had made a nervous and dodgy start and trailed to Rangers. He bulldozed his way into the home box and set up an equaliser for Tom Rogic and the title was destined for Parkhead from that exact point.
“McGregor has been outstanding, but the thing is, you sort of knew he would be because that’s the standards he has set,” Sutton stated.
Hard to argue with that assessment from Sutton in any way. On and off the park McGregor has been an outstanding ambassador for the club and the support. He could quite easily have accepted more money by following the example of the Celtic wantaways who left McGregor and former skipper Scott Brown fighting a losing battle last season.
McGregor knew that he would be losing Brown and he either had to step up and take on that responsibility himself amid the biggest rebuild at Celtic in many a year and he accepted that weight on his shoulders, gave Ange Postecoglou to backing he needed from his leader in the dressing room and in the huddle and has driven this Celtic team to the most unlikely of title triumphs.
Chris Sutton though opts for Cameron Carter-Vickers as his player of the year. Personally I can’t see past Callum McGregor.