Shunsuke Nakamura’s Magic inspired Current Celtic Star to Make the Grade

As Celtic fans we’ve all got plenty to thank Shunsuke Nakamura for.

From the moment Gordon Strachan fought off the likes of Atletico Madrid, Lazio and Borussia Dortmund to sign the Japanese dead ball specialist for a reported transfer fee of £2.5 million on 29 July 2005, we knew we were going to blessed, and so it turned out.

From a man of the match debut against Dundee United to league winning free kicks against Kilmarnock there were more than a few stop offs along the journey that raised backsides from seats on a regular basis.

Turns out possibly the most famous of Nakamura’s goals is also responsible for an 11 year old ball boy dedicating his life to professional football.

Callum McGregor was fulfilling that role on the very night Nakamura struck the winning goal past Edwin Van Der Sar in the Manchester United goal to give Celtic a famous Champions league victory over Alex Ferguson’s legendary side.

Callum has been talking to Glasgow Times about the moment Nakamura’s goal hit the back of the night and sent electricity flowing through Celtic Park on one of Celtic’s most famous of European nights. It was the moment the young McGregor dedicated his life to football, now we get to reap the rewards in 2020.

“I always talk about the Nakamura free kick against United as a big moment for me. I was a ball boy and felt the energy and electricity in the stadium that night.

It leaves an impression on you and I remember thinking ‘I want a bit of this, this is me, this is what I was born to do’.“Moments like that inspire you to chase that, and at Celtic you know you’ve the chance to do it.

“I remember playing football from an early age. I then got picked up by Celtic and it gives you more inspiration. It’s a combination of making it happen and experiencing those inspiring moments.”

Callum McGregor in my opinion is the best all round footballer at Celtic. I’d consider him to be our most valuable on-field asset. I mentioned in a previous article his ability to play deeper or as an attacking option has led me to regularly wish we had two of him.

He didn’t lack for moments of indiscretion off the field in his youth but it was passing, a small hiccup on an upward trajectory as a Celt. Every season, every passing game has seen an improvement. Much as they way he learned lessons off the field he has learned from them on it too and constantly improves as a result.

It’s the fact that technically he is streets ahead of the majority he shares a field with, at European and international level also, that sets him aside. McGregor simply has everything a modern day midfield player needs.

When it comes to keeping possession, recycling it, finding that pass under pressure, holding the ball when the pass isn’t there just yet, playing with the head up and selflessly offering team mates an option when they are looking to offload is what Callum’s game is all about. He’s not shy these days in having a shot at goal either. It’s that dedication to being a professional where you can see the clear comparisons with Nakamura.

And Callum has some advice for the next generation coming through as to the sacrifice you have to make, just like the qualities he saw in Nakamura.

“I dedicated my life to being a footballer. That’s hard at 11,” he added. “You think there’s so much more to life and you want to have fun and everything else.

“But if you want to do it you have to take it seriously as well.

“The combination of those two bits of advice is what I’d tell any young person wanting to be a footballer.”

The hardest thing in football is probably putting the ball in the net, however next in terms of difficulty is always showing for the ball, no matter how bad a game you may be having. Nakamura and McGregor have that in common. They also have a level of professionalism and dedication to their art that sets them apart.

Chances are Callum McGregor will soon succeed Scott Brown as captain of Celtic. It could be that we’ve got Shunsuke Nakamura to thank for the influence on an 11 year old Callum when that day comes.

Niall J

Myself with Paul, Stripey Cat, Neil and Friends

Incidentally Liam Kelly’s article on his first away day trip European adventure following Celtic was published on The Celtic Star last night was a brilliant read and you can enjoy it HERE.

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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.

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