Earlier on, I did my piece on Keith Jackson’s latest dreck in which I agreed with him on one subject; that was an excellent performance yesterday from Callum McGregor.
The captain was brilliant, from the start of the match in the Huddle where he was clearly rallying the team to the minute the final whistle went. I thought the whole display was great.
I was going to write about Callum last week, in the aftermath of comments from the Clyde hack Gordon Daizell who accused him of “contributing nothing.” I thought that was ludicrous. Callum might not have been at his best, but who in the team was?
The idea that the captain of this club had not been contributing to the cause is clearly daft, but the thing is, I was hearing this from elsewhere too, including amongst that section of our support which always seems to want someone to blame these days.
Callum has had stick like this before, even when we’ve been playing well. Scott Brown used to get the same, and Neil Lennon undoubtedly had it before him and it has nothing to do with them being captains but because of the role they played in the side, that midfield anchor position which is unsexy and unspectacular and which largely goes unheralded.
So, a lot of this is just the standard criticism that accrues to any footballer playing in that role. Callum has had to put up with it before, and these guys had to before him.
There are few players who have given us such service as those three players and yet they were subjected to this over and over again. Still, I’m surprised to hear this levelled at Callum as in my view he’s the best technical footballer of the three of them and by quite a way.
I do so of understand how this criticism comes up. Because that role, although often undervalued, is actually the beating heart of this team. Callum McGregor is a supreme footballer and when he is off form it can seem that he takes the whole team down a notch.
That’s why it’s so important when he turns it on and up to nine, because when the player in that position functions the whole team is better. When he malfunctions, the team is less.
I think the change of system takes some of the pressure off the captain, because in going to a 4-4-2 we actually do away with the anchor role entirely and restore him to his position as a box-to-box midfielder. That, actually, causes a few problems because you don’t realise how critical the anchor role is to how we play until we’re no longer utilising it.
But it also enables McGregor to be more involved in an attacking sense, restoring him to the playmaking role where his range of passing and his vision are more apparent, and this is why it seemed that his performance was lifted a notch at the weekend.
I haven’t thought he was playing as badly as the negativity surrounding him suggested, because the guy in his position never gets the credit he deserves, but we really do miss Callum when he’s not dictating the game and passing the ball around the way he can.
The shift in formation has not just liberating Kyogo but the captain too … and that will make us better, week on week, until this whole team is functioning like a well oiled machine again.