“When you come back and you’re champions, you have a target on your back,” Callum McGregor

Callum McGregor was interviewed this afternoon by Sky Sports Scotland as he previewed the new Scottish Premiership season ahead. McGregor captained the side last year to a Legaue and Cup double in his inaugural term as the heir of Scott Brown. Success seems to cling to Callum, having already enjoyed an embarrassment of riches before the run was stopped in 2020-21.

The skipper was speaking from the training base camp in Vienna, Austria, where we have been for the past week. We saw on Wednesday evening the fringe players and up-and-coming talents of Celtic demolish SC Wiener Viktoria in emphatic fashion – running out 7-0 victors in the end. There lies in wait more stern tests of the squad this pre-season, with Rapid Vienna awaiting in another bounce match come Saturday.

 Callum McGregor of Celtic speaks with Ryan Kent of Rangers during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Rangers FC at on February 02, 2022 (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

The interviewer began by asking Callum about his need to recover and recharge the batteries, as it is common knowledge the man plays just about every minute of competitive game-time possible for the Parkhead club. He said: “Yeah. I think you need a couple of weeks just to take yourself away from the game, give your body a chance to recover and rest up a little bit. After that two-week break your desperate to get back, be about the lads and start training again and looking forward to the new season.”

On the purpose of the summer schedule and training camp, McGregor said: “It’s just a team bonding, team building. The lads living with each other for ten days and getting to know each other in a more personal level. There’ll be challenges throughout the season and generally if you’ve got a good group of boy’s that really understand each other, then they’ll go the extra mile for each other when it becomes difficult. I think that’s a vital aspect of the pre-season tour. Integrating everyone together and having a bit of fun.”

On his own personal role as captain when it comes to maintaining a good camaraderie and vibe, he said: “To be fair, we’re a good group anyway. Always chatting, having coffees after lunch. We’ve got a wee Love Island group going on at night as well! They’re all pretty social and it’s a good atmosphere at the minute.”

The midfielder also admitted the foreign lads have joined the group that watches the reality tv show: “There’s quite a mix, aye. I think we maybe and 15/20 bodies last night. It’s good entertainment and like you say, it just passes the time a bit.”

 Callum McGregor of Celtic celebrates with the Premier Sports Cup after victory in the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park on December 19, 2021(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Whilst he admitted to the squad’s guilty pleasure, there was no such soft-hearted approach when the subject changed to speak of defending our new League crown.

He said: “Yeah, of course it becomes more difficult. To win it is obviously difficult. What you go through. The challenges throughout the season. But when you come back and your champions, then you have a target on your back. Everybody’s chasing you, everybody wants to beat you. The challenge becomes even greater. To go and retain it. But the good thing is about this group is we’ve came back with a fresh mentality. We want to work hard. We’re asking ourselves ‘how good can we be?’.

“Can we produce our best football this season? We’ll see where that takes us. It’s a start fresh mentality. Everybody starts from zero and we’ve got to work as hard as we did last year. Even more to go and try and retain this title.”

IMAGO / PA Images Callum McGregor at Dingwall last Sunday, Photo Robert Perry

When asked about the desire to get out of the Champions League group stages next season by Mark Benstead, he replied: “Yeah. The managers challenging us to play our best football this season. Whatever that looks like, come the end of the season we’ll see.

“We have to set ourself the target of trying to do as well as we can in every single competition. And that includes the Champions League. It will be a huge challenge for the group. But it’s hugely exciting for the club. This is the level that the players want to be playing at. It’s a big challenge but we’re really looking forward to it.”

In finishing, McGregor was asked about the new addition to the coaching staff, Harry Kewell, and his influence. He added: “We’ve had a couple of chats. He likes to remind you of how successful he was as a player! It’s great to have someone of that ilk and that played at such a massive level.

“To pick his brains. Listen to the experience he’s had. You see him around the player’s as well. He’s got a great personality. He’s got a great way with the player’s. He’s settled in really well. His experience will be invaluable as well.”

Watch Callum’s full interview below:

Paul Gillespie

About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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