Celtic captain Callum McGregor spoke to the media at Lennoxtown yesterday afternoon ahead of the Glasgow Derby match at Celtic Park this afternoon against theRangers. Here’s what Calmac had to say…
Q: How much are you looking forward to the game?
Callum McGregor: “The players can’t wait. When these games come around there is always excitement surrounding the game whether that be inside or outside the building. It’s just our job to stay calm and understand what we need to do and what we need to bring to the game to make it a success. The players trained well this morning and we are ready to go. We are looking forward to it.”
Q: Do you pay much attention to the league table and do you look at where you are compared to theRangers games in hand?
Callum McGregor: “No. Not at all. I have been here for many years now and it is always tight going into Christmas. We are at that stage again it is tight and the games are always big. We have four of them throughout the year and if you want to be successful you have to win the majority of them. That’s where we are. The next game is always important for us and this is the next game.
“Once we deal with that the most important game will be the one after that. That is just the nature of league football and you have to continually win and put results together to be successful. This is just the next step on the way.”
Q: You got the win at Ibrox at the start of the season when you look at theRangers now in comparison to then do you see a big change under the new manager?
Callum McGregor: “Not so much in terms of style. We’ve seen some stuff, we’ve been watching bits of the games. What they are is that they are in a good moment and they feel good about themselves. That brings a natural bounce and energy but it is up to us as it is our home game and we need to go and take the game to them and implement our style on the game.
“We have to try and be successful in the game. I don’t see too much change in actual style if you watch the games but they are in a confident mood and will come full of confidence as well. It will make for a good game.”
Q: You’ve played plenty of derby matches at this time of year going into the winter break. Does it give you a psychological advantage or momentum if you get the win?
Callum McGregor: “I guess if you win then you are going to feel good about yourself. We are only halfway through the season and there is a lot of football to be played. You have all seen how it has swung and turned since the start of the season.
“Nothing will be defined tomorrow. It is a home game for us and we know how big the game is for our supporters and our club. We have to give everything that we can to make sure that it is a positive experience for ourselves and the supporters. We are at the halfway stage and a good result would see us feel good about ourselves but that is the same with any game.”
Q: There has been a lot of talk about no away fans for the last couple of games against theRangers and people have their opinions about it. The way it is at the moment is that it is going to be a stadium full of Celtic fans, is that the type of thing you can use to your advantage?
Callum McGregor: “We have to. These home games are hugely important, especially when you don’t have the other set of supporters in the stadium then it is important that we try and start on the front foot and get our crowd involved in the game.
“We have seen it many times as the crowd can get on top of you and make it a positive atmosphere. That’s everything that we will try and do in the game and we understand it is a home game and we want to go and play our football and naturally bring the crowd into it. I am sure they will come in full voice. They know it is a big game and we know it is a big game so it has all the hallmarks for what will be a positive day.”
Q: You have played with attendances with maximum allocations and all the way done to none. How odd is it when there are no away fans at Ibrox or you are playing at home and 60,000 Celtic fans are cheering you on?
Callum McGregor: “Of course, it is different to having the other set of supporters in the stadium. It feels a little bit strange. We are professional footballers we just need to deal with it now. We let people make decisions and they make the decisions which they feel are best for the safety of the supporters.
“We have to get on with it whether we like it or dislike it. We can continue to push and try and get the full allocation back but until there is a safe way forward for that we will have to deal with what is put in front of us. We will have the benefit of having a full stadium and everyone behind us. When you get those types of occasions you have to try and maximise them as well.”
Q: There is a lot of new guts in the squad. As captain, how well-placed are the new guys going into this match in terms of understanding what it means to the city and everything that comes with a derby like this?
Callum McGregor: “I think the players get it. I think they know. We’ve been to Ibrox and won there earlier in the season and pretty much everybody was involved in that game. We’ve seen it before. We know what the fixture is about. Of course, it’s a home game but that can only bring more excitement and more energy to the game for our sake. We try and use that positive experience we’ve had already this season and we will take that into the game and add in the crowd, and our intensity and hopefully, we can have a good day.”
Q: Liam Scales came in for that game and made a name for himself. Is that what this fixture can do? Is that the carrot to some of the other guys as they can make themselves heroes in this game?
Callum McGregor: “It’s the one game where in the eyes of the supporters you can become an instant hero. It is good for the individual that it happens to but I think for us as a collective, we train and we play the same way every single day, so the guys that are in this building and are part of this team give everything, every day anyway. When they get an opportunity to play in this game it is just another opportunity for them to show to the group, to the club and themselves that they want to be part of this group.
“Of course, when you have a nice experience and a successful experience then you get all the adulation that comes with that from the outside but it’s not why we do it. We do it because we are trying to work toward something for us as a club and for the supporters to give them success. Naturally in football when you are doing well people love you and that’s a nice part of it. The guys that are chosen to play against Rangers will be fully focused on the job at hand.”
Q: When you look back at your first experiences in this fixture, you scored a few goals in them as well, did you feel like you were establishing yourself as a Celtic player?
Callum McGregor: “Yeah, of course. They are the biggest games and they are the ones that you get judged on. From the outside looking in they are the games that everybody judges you on and the most amount of weight is placed on in terms of players’ performances and all these things. That’s not to add any pressure to the players that we have got. We try and work on things on a day-to-day basis.
“The matchday scenario is just a combination of everything that we do during the week. We are all working together. If you are doing a lot right consistently through the weeks and that applies to any kind of game then come the big games you have got that confidence to go in and do what we have been doing as a group. Hopefully, it is that consistency which brings success.”
Q: Going back to the Celtic fans. They seemed to be right up for it in Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day. At half-time coming off the pitch they got right behind you and after the game, you could tell they were getting themselves geared up for this one. Do you feel there is unity there now which wasn’t there in the last couple of weeks after a couple of adverse results?
Callum McGregor: “That’s football. When you are doing well, of course, there is a bounce when you are getting results. Everybody feels good about themselves. The one thing about us as football players is that we want to win every game and when we don’t we feel that disappointment.
“So do the supporters as they live and breathe the club and that’s why they are so disappointed when you don’t give them positive results. Hopefully, they have seen a team in the last couple of weeks who have been hungry to rectify what happened previously. We have to continue to show that we are hurt by what happened a couple of weeks ago and that has to be the mantra between now and the end of the season.
“Every time we go out on the pitch we are fighting for ourselves and fighting for the supporters. This game is a big opportunity to show that and naturally, they’ll be excited in terms of the kind of fixture it is. We have to show that every time we go on the pitch, we are hurting from a couple of weeks ago and we want to put it right.”