Examine the reaction of those over in enemy territory to our triumphant weekend and you’ll see that every single one of them is astonished about the performance of one Celtic player in particular. They have improperly articulated that astonishment, and framed it around the way he was “given space” and not closed down or “allowed” to impose himself on the game.
But the truth is, these are backhanded compliments to the player in question, and of course it’s Callum McGregor they are talking about. They cannot recognise, or perhaps bring themselves to admit, that he was just outstanding and that after a slow start to this season he is again coming into his own as the best midfielder in Scotland and one of the best on this island.
A lot of Celtic fans should recognise that as well.
Brendan Rodgers was not the only person who silenced his critics this weekend and showed off his immense talents. McGregor’s performance, and especially the way Ibrox fan media has reacted to it, serves as a reminder about his. It’s not for nothing that Rodgers spoke at length to him before coming back. Callum has emerged as a real leader.
If I had doubts about McGregor at all they come from around that time.
I genuinely could not see how such a quiet and unassuming guy was going to step into the big shoes of Scott Brown, who to me epitomises everything that you expect to see in a leader on the pitch.
Callum did not seem to be made of that kind of stuff … and how wrong I was.
I still think we needed a defensive midfielder in the last window.
My verdict on it has not changed one iota just because we won at the weekend. It was an incoherent mess in which the manager didn’t get the sorts of players he had specified that he wanted.
One of the real mistakes, if we’re using that word, was that we did not replace McGregor in his role as our midfield enforcer. Not because Callum is not up to it, but because I’ve never thought it was his best position.
Rodgers, who has managed Callum, knows what that is.
He has seen McGregor play as the roaming playmaker, the guy impossible to pin down on the park, the guy who not only assists the defence but roves forward and gets amongst the goals too.
I think when Rodgers talked about power he anticipated an iron man midfielder who would allow him to put Callum back where he belongs, although right now that would mean supplanting the excellent Matt O’Riley.
Still, I have no doubt who the better of the two players is.
I think we’re missing out on the best of Callum’s game playing him way back there.
But there’s no question that he has made the role his own over the years, and at the same time imposed himself on the team and emerged as its beating heart.
When Callum plays, Celtic plays and when those Ibrox fan sites focus on his performance they are acknowledging that.
Everyone should acknowledge it by now.
His performance on Sunday was superb, and whilst he was overshadowed somewhat (and deservedly) by the performance of Liam Scales I am sure that on another day he would have been all anyone talked about.
The boss is back. So too is his leader on the pitch.
Which means, in many ways, that Celtic is back as well. He silenced his critics all across Scotland, and further beyond. It was the Callum we’ve come to expect … and to rely on. Because we can.