“You have got to fight. You have got to do all the dirty bits of the game if you want to win,” Calmac

Celtic captain Callum McGregor spoke to the media at Lennoxtown yesterday afternoon ahead of today’s Glasgow Derby showdown at Celtic Park where the Bhoys will be looking to pick up the three points to extend the lead to six points with two games to play and with a significant goal difference on top.

So the title cannot be won – mathematically at least – today with a Celtic victory but it will reduce the already slim chances of theRangers even further as Celtic look to complete the job in midweek at Kilmarnock, then celebrate yet another trophy day at Celtic Park next Saturday against St Mirren.

All that can wait though as the focus is entirely on beating theRangers today. The 60,000 Celtic supporters at the game have to give it 100% for the entire afternoon, let’s do our bit to make sure it’s an extra special day in Paradise!

Here’s everything that our inspirational captain Callum McGregor had to say yesterday afternoon as he previewed his 38th Glasgow Derby…

Callum McGregor of Celtic celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the Scottish Premiership match between theRangers and Celtic at Ibrox on April 29, 2017. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Q: You’ve played in this fixture 37 times before what have you learned about it over the years?

Callum McGregor: “Every one of them is different. Every one of them has its own challenges. You have got to be at your maximum. You have got to fight. You have got to do all the dirty bits of the game if you want to win. I don’t think any of that changes. We will approach the game in the right manner and try and be as aggressive as we can and see where that takes us.”

Q: Is it a game that still throws up surprises for you?

Callum McGregor: “Yes. I think it does. It is two good teams and anything can happen on the day. You have got to earn the right to play and earn the right to win the game. Form goes out the window and once the game starts you have 90 plus minutes to try and find a way to win.”

James Forrest of Celtic celebrates his goal with Callum McGregor during the Betfred Cup Final at Hampden Park on November 26, 2017 . (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

Q: You said you got caught up in all of the emotions of the last game. Did that underline that even the wisest and oldest heads can still get stressed by it or caught up in the nonsense of it?

Callum McGregor: “I don’t think I did actually. The game is emotional and you want to be emotional when you play in the game because I think you have to find something different to try and get your team over the line. You have to deal with whatever the game throws at you and you have to try and find a solution. Sometimes they are messy, sometimes it is good football that wins you a game. You have to find that wee cocktail to win the game.”

Q: Todd Cantwell said he wants to win this game a little bit more. What do you make of that?

Callum McGregor: “If that’s his opinion then that’s good for him.”

Q: Do you agree this is an almighty chance to wrap up the title?

Callum McGregor: “I think mathematically it is. If we win the game we will go six points clear with two games to go with a healthy goal difference. You put yourself in a really good position to go on and try and win the league. For us, we have trained well this week and the focus is on the game and whatever the outcome is. Hopefully, it is a positive one which will take us one step closer to where we want to be.”

theRangers v Celtic –  Callum McGregor celebrates the win after the cinch Premiership match at the Ibrox on Sunday September 3, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Q: With that carrot dangled amongst professionals does that give you a little bit extra this week?

Callum McGregor: “I think it should. It is a brilliant chance for us to take one step closer to where we want to be. When you add in the fact it is against your biggest rivals then that gives you more motivation, the stadium more motivation, the fans and the club more motivation. Hopefully, we can channel that energy in the right way. You don’t want to become too emotional, you want to play the game and find a way to win. If we can do that then we will have had a really good day and we can send the supporters home happy.”

Q: Rangers haven’t won at Celtic Park since October 2020. The longer that goes on, psychologically, does it become a bigger deal?

Callum McGregor: “I don’t know. You would need to ask them that. For us, when we are at home we are always trying to be on the front foot and be aggressive and try and take advantage of the stadium and the supporters and try and get them right behind us early doors. It might be a question for them but for us we try and attack the game with the same mindset.”

Q: The night before the game when you are sitting at home is there a different feeling when it is a derby game as opposed to a league game?

Callum McGregor: “I don’t think so. There is more of an edge to it but I think successful teams try and prepare in the same way and they don’t get too up or too down in the good and difficult moments. It is the same when you are preparing for matches. We’ve trained well this week. We will go to the hotel and we will rest up, get a bit of food and go to our room and get ready and think about all the things you need to do in the game to make it successful for us. I guess a little bit of it sharpens the senses but I wouldn’t want anybody doing anything hugely different to what they normally do.”

Q: Is it a fixture that you have maybe felt more nervous about in your earlier career? Now with more experience and lots of victories do you feel like a different and more confident person?

Callum McGregor: “That just comes with experience and age. Everything is the same when you play your first game. You are on edge. The more and more games you play, the more experienced you become and more comfortable you become and you start to get into a routine of how you prepare yourself in terms of your body and your mind for these games. It is just like everything with experience you get better.”

Callum McGregor during the UEFA Champions League match between Feyenoord and Celtic FC at Feyenoord Stadium de Kuip on September 19, 2023 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. ANP Hollandse Hoogte JEROEN PUTMANS

Q: As captain do you find yourself having to talk to some of the players who do get over-emotional and is it different to trying to gee them up?

Callum McGregor: “There can be little situations but we are level-headed as a group. We don’t get too up or too down. We understand the training and the process of how we go about our business and how we behave on and off the pitch. That gives us the culture so when we come to the big pressure moments and occasions they are more or less normalised for the players. I try to stress to them if they want to play at this club they are going to have to play in high-pressure games. That has to become normal for them. Over the last few years, we have managed to deal with that really well.”

Q: How do you feel right now?

Callum McGregor: “I am starting to feel much better which is good. There is always a little period after you are out injured when you have got to suffer for a little bit in terms of trying to catch up with the rest of the group. You do a bit more extra in the gym and get the legs strong again. Sometimes that can have a lingering effect on you.  I am starting to feel like I am in a good place. The last couple of weeks of training have been really positive.”

Celtic v St. Johnstone – – Callum McGregor during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Saturday August 26, 2023.Photo Steve Welsh

Q: Were you worried that the initial diagnosis would rule you out of these games?

Callum McGregor: “That is always your worry when you are told you are injured. We went to see the specialist. They gave me a pretty long time frame. We had a chat as a group and there was just no way I was going to sit out and watch the whole thing unfold. I’d rather be in there fighting with the lads and trying to help the club as much as possible. We tried to be as aggressive as we could in a safe way, of course, but there was definitely a will and an intention to be involved in the games.”

Q: How did you speed up that process?

Callum McGregor: “Just determination.”

Q: It seemed like you were back to your best against Hearts. The team was pressing. Did you get the impression that everyone was of a similar mindset?

Callum McGregor: “When you get within touching distance of your objective, you are at home and the crowd are with you, it’s important that we start the game properly and bring our supporters with us. Everybody could see the atmosphere last week was incredible. The two married together perfectly as the crowd spurred the players on and we spurred the crowd on. It became a really intense high-level performance. The players felt good after the game and the supporters did too and we hope to try and replicate that as many times between now and the end of the season.”

Celtic v Ross County – Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Joe Hart arrive with their trophies from last seasons treble winning season ahead of the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Saturday August 5, 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

Q: There is a moment when you tracked back 40 yards and won the ball and the crowd and manager were cheering. Is that the kind of attitude you need against Rangers?

Callum McGregor: “Yes, absolutely. These are games when you have to give your all. You have got to do more than normal. You have got to help your mate. You have got to dig in even when you are tired as the crowd will give you the energy. It is little bits like that which can help decide the games and those little duels. The game is never perfect but you have to help your mate if he is in trouble. We are pretty good at that.”

Q: Was anything said in the dressing room about the atmosphere last week?

Callum McGregor: “The boys were talking amongst themselves. I think they thought it was as good an atmosphere as we have had at Celtic Park in terms of the performance as well. The manager touched upon the fact that it was our most complete performance of the season in terms of the quality we showed with and without the ball. For sure, the boys and the supporters were buzzing. Hopefully, we can bring that energy to the Rangers game and we can have a positive day.”

Callum McGregor of Celtic clashes with Nicolas Raskin of Rangers FC during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and theRangers at Celtic Park on April 08, 2023 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: This is the chance for the players to become heroes and be remembered for years to come. Is that what you are saying to the players?

Callum McGregor: “I think we focus on the process. These are big games and if you do something special in them they do tend to get remembered more than the other games. We understand all of that. For us, as a group, the key message is we do what we believe in, and what we trust and if we do all that we can then add the special ingredient with the crowd then hopefully, we can have some special moments.”

Watch Callum McGregor’s Media Conference below…

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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

1 Comment

  1. We have to win today, I don’t want a draw as we have a tendency to drop points against other teams.
    We also have to grow up and be string, To often The Rangers push us hard in latter part of matches, we have been fortunate come away with a result in last few matches.
    We are far to small and easily out muscled.