You can understand why both Ange Postecoglou and Steve Clarke are fretting over the fitness of Callum McGregor ahead of approaching important games for both managers. The Celtic manager is hoping to get McGregor back into his team ahead of the international break, if not against Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday night at Celtic Park in the Europa League then against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday lunchtime in the Scottish Premiership.
The thought of losing a second game in a row in the Europa League and/or a four successive away defeat in the league isn’t a good look for the Australian manager who is currently being forced to pay a heavy price for the delay in appointing him in the first place and the scrambling around as the transfer deadline approached at the end of last month.
The gamble taken by the Celtic Plc Board in limiting the number of summer recruits to replace the bigger exodus from last season’s squad might have worked – had it not been for a horrendous run of injuries, including of course to the captain who is currently close to recovering from his hamstring problem.
For Steve Clarke, the Scotland boss has come to realise that the most important midfielder he has at his disposal is the Celtic captain – despite the hype elsewhere and he will quite understandably be desperate to have McGregor in his squad for the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Israel at Hampden a week on Saturday before the short trip to the Faroes the following Wednesday.
Clarke can almost certainly rule out any involvement of the other injured Celts who would normally be in his squad. James Forrest remains sidelined and Greg Taylor is recovering from his shoulder surgery and is out for the medium term, probably back towards the end of the year.
But it is the Celtic captain that Clarke will be desperate to have fit and available. Knowing McGregor he’s be desperate to play – he always is – but Ange Postecoglou has to decide if that is in Celtic’s best interests?
If McGregor misses the games against Leverkusen and Aberdeen then there should be no question of Celtic allowing him to join the Scotland squad. If he makes it back up at Pittodrie, Ange Postecoglou – a former International manager himself, having taken Australia to the World Cup – will have a huge call to make, as indeed will Callum McGregor.
The player though will want to play, so Ange needs to make the tough call himself.