“The football is getting rave reviews, everyone’s enjoying it. It’s a joy to play in,” Callum McGregor

Celtic Captain Callum McGregor and our manager Ange Postecoglou spoke to the media yesterday afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s League Cup Final against Hibs at Hampden. Celtic are looking to win the League Cup for the 20th time in the club’s unbroken history and we have been featuring Celtic Historian David Potter.s account of each an every one on The Celtic Star’s Advent Calendar throughout December. Win Number 18 is featured this morning on this site and we’ll get right up to-date tomorrow morning, although hopefully that situation won’t last too long and David Potter be writing about Celtic’s 20th League Cup Final win early on 20 December.

This will be the first final as Celtic captain for Callum McGregor and indeed as manager for Ange and both will be absolutely desperate to get their hands on that trophy at around 5pm tomorrow afternoon.

Here’s what happened as Callum McGregor answered questions from the hacks and representatives of the Celtic Fan Media at yesterday’s Media Conference…

Q: It seems there’s a real sense of unity in the team despite there being almost a whole new team of players, what’s that like from a player/captain’s perspective?

A: In the summer things were a little bit all over the place, a bit chaotic but what the manager’s done since he came in is really solidified the group.  He identified the players he wanted and we managed to get them in over a difficult period with Covid in the summer and all the isolation rules. What we’ve got is a really good group of people too in terms of just really good human beings who want to play football, want to help, want to work – that just makes the whole thing a lot easier, especially when you’re trying to build a new team.

Already the football is getting rave reviews, everyone’s enjoying it. It’s a joy to play in but that comes with enjoying your football. The manager’s always spoken about when you’re a 10-year-old kid you want to attack, get on the ball and make things happen. That’s what he’s done: given us a real freedom to go and express ourselves and you can see that in the performances.

Q: What is it that’s getting the best out of you – is it the manager, have you made changes to your personal approach now that you’re captain or is it just you fitting into the way the team’s playing better in general?

A: When you have a poorer period in terms of form you always assess it and think ‘how can I get better?’ When people start to criticise you it just makes you more hungry to prove them wrong. That’s something I’ve always done over my career. You’re not going to always impress everyone and keep them all happy but I think you know within yourself when you’re playing well and when you’re not.

The gaffer’s come in and he’s been brilliant. He’s given us real confidence to go and play. Certainly with that type of football it helps that I’m that footballing type that likes to get on the ball, play short passes and get the team moving and get that speed into the game. Form can come and go but as long as you always try to give your best and try to improve all the time then that’s all you can ask for.

Q: Is there any particular process you go through to get into the right mindset for a cup final?

A: Every game representing Celtic is a massive game. I think if you’ve got good processes throughout that in terms of training and applying yourself every day then it just becomes the norm. The more you can stick to that process of trying to give your best every single day then when the bigger games and cup finals come around you’re already in rhythm of giving your all and it just becomes natural.

I’ve always found that’s the best way to work in terms of having consistency to your performances and the way you live your live – normally these things then fall into place, so it’s a case of getting into good habits early on and continuing that through the season.

15th December 2021; Victoria Park, Dingwall, Scotland, Scottish Premier league football, Ross County versus Celtic; Callum McGregor of Celtic holds off the challenge of Jordan Tilson of Ross County

Q: How are you all feeling with just a couple of days to go?

A: The boys are feeling good, really confident off the back of some really good performances and a really good run. In terms of the way we’ve been playing, performances have been good, we’re keeping a lot of clean sheets and we’re defending well. So everybody’s in a good place mentally and when you get the chance to win silverware then it just adds a little bit of extra excitement. But we’ll keep a lid on it, leep working hard and staying calm. When we approach the game on Sunday we’ll give everything to win.

Q: What do you expect from Hibs on Sunday?

A: That’s the thing with cup competitions – if you perform well on the day you’ve got a chance of winning. That’s what we need to guard against as well. Hibs have always been a tough opponent for us. They come and they take the game to us and we need to handle that. I’m sure we’ll be preparing the gameplan properly but, from our point of view, we’re just recovering over the next couple of days and then we’ll try to execute the gameplan that the staff give us and hopefully that’s good enough on the day for us to go and win.

15th December 2021; Victoria Park, Dingwall, Scotland, Scottish Premier league football, Ross County versus Celtic; Callum McGregor of Celtic fires in an effort from outside the box

Q: What would it mean to you to lift a trophy as Celtic captain?

A: It would be a huge moment but we’re not thinking about that yet. All we’re doing is trying to prepare for the game. Like I say that’s to stay calm and approach the game in the same manner throughout the start of the season. We’re always trying to get better as a squad. If it comes on Sunday that’ll be a huge moment but for the time being I’m fully focused on doing my job and preparing for the game.

Q: How much do the players want to do this for the manager and how much does he deserve a success like the League Cup?

A: Everyone deserves it. The manager has come in and made a real impact on the group We are all a really tight and close-knit group which seems crazy even though we only met each other five months ago but there is a real good bond there now. That’s helped us have such a good start in terms of the rebuilding process. The manager is always on at us to try and improve every single day and sets those demands and we have to follow it. I think on Sunday if we can get over the line and manage to get silverware then it is probably a good indicator that we are doing the right things and hopefully that continues.

15th December 2021; Victoria Park, Dingwall, Scotland, Scottish Premier league football, Ross County versus Celtic; Callum McGregor of Celtic gestures to the fans on the park to leave so the game can restart

Q: How concerned are you about the current Covid situation?

A: It is always concerning and things are changing on a daily basis but we just need to wait and react to whatever news we get. It is very concerning at the rate it is spreading now with the new variant. We just have to be fluid and flexible on it.

Q: Has there been any change in the protocols within the squad?

A: We are always super-vigilant anyway and we continue to do two metres distancing whenever possible and we try and do the right things in terms of when we leave the building too. Everybody is trying to make good decisions and we understand that there is a lot of it out there at the minute but the players and staff and everybody in the building are doing their best to ensure we are all safe.”

21st February 2021; , Ross County versus Celtic, Callum McGregor in action

Q: In previous seasons when you have won the League Cup, have you noticed that it has given everybody a lift for the remainder of the season?

A: It is pretty early on in the season and things are going well for the team to get to the final and if you manage to get over the line then that gives you the right kind of indicator that you are doing the right things. As a group, we are still in the early stages of our development and we have managed to get to the final and when the big games come around you do everything you can to win them and hopefully, that is the case. It would give us a massive lift and it would show us that we are doing better as a group.”

Q: As the club captain is there any extra responsibility on your shoulders to do anything different in terms of rallying the guys or giving speeches?

A:  In terms of the group, we are all looking forward to it because when the big games come around they are the ones that you don’t need to be motivated for. In terms of cup finals, they take care of themselves. Everybody is in good spirits and looking forward to the game and we just prepare as we have done so far. We have a great group with a few leaders in there and we all bounce off each other well and hopefully, we can have a good day on Sunday.

Callum McGregor of Celtic after the UEFA Europa League group G match between Celtic FC and Real Betis at Celtic Park on December 09, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: You had many years of dominance with the quadruple-treble but were empty-handed last season, does that give you any extra motivation to pick up this trophy?

A: Of course. When you have success and it is snatched away from you that makes you even more hungry and determined to get that winning feeling back. Winning becomes a habit and it is infectious and that is what we want to breed here. We want to breed a winning mentality when the big games come around we manage to do it. We are continuing on the right track and we are preparing for the game properly and on Sunday we will give everything to win it. We have always spoken about the way we play football and the team we want to be with the ball and when we don’t have the ball and that has been the one constant message n matter who we are playing be it home, away, Europe or a cup game, we always approach the game in the same manner and we want to play the same type of football. I’m assuming if you ask the manager he will be approaching it in exactly the same way.

Q: You mentioned the closeness of the group, what is the key to that bond?

A: There is a lot of good people in here and a lot of good human beings who are the right type. They want to work hard, they want to do well and they want to be successful. When you get a building full of people like that it tends to snowball easily. We are blessed with the characters we have brought in and they are really good types of people we want to be successful and do everything we can to help each other be successful. I think that is probably key as well.

Photo: Andrew Milligan

Q: You are close to Scott Brown, have you heard from him or had any advice for you as captain in the lead up to the cup final?

A: We talk pretty regularly, to be honest. We are always in communication and texting back and forward about the game and what is happening and things like that. Scott has always been brilliant with me in terms of advice and we talk all the time and I am pretty sure we will hear from each other in the next couple of days. He’s a good mate of mine and it is all good.

Q: How impressed have you been with the players that have come in and how the team has adapted during the injury crisis?

It’s been very good. We have had a lot of injuries but with the structure of the team and the way the manager wants the team to play then the team has a specific function and within that it shouldn’t really matter who is playing in what position as they should still function the same way. That is the one good thing about this type of football and the structure that we play. “We can miss players but the guys that come in know the job that they have to do for the team and what is asked of them. Everybody who has come in has done well and impressed the manager and that’s what we need everybody fighting for starting positions, fighting to be on the bench and that just keeps the whole standards up and pushing in the right direction. It’s been excellent.

5th December 2021; Tannadice Park, Dundee, Scotland: Scottish Premier League football, Dundee United versus Celtic: Callum McGregor of Celtic congratulates Liam Scales of Celtic after he makes it 3-0 in the 81st minute

Q: Has the manager emphasised this season that it is going to be a squad game?

A: The manager speaks about that all the time. We need everybody and you see the number of fixtures and football that is getting played at the minute and it is pretty much every three or four days. The manager is very big on everyone in the building playing their part and when you are called upon to play you have to be ready to help the team. That is one thing the manager is massive on.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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