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The Celtic Captain Was Targeted This Weekend. But His Perfect Response Stunned The Cynics.

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Operation: Stop Callum was launched last week, as ex-Ibrox players lined up to offer their advice to the hapless losers playing for the club right now. It amounted to little more than “just boot him up in the air whenever he gets the ball.”

Easier said than done, as it turns out.

There is a certain logic to this idea, this notion that if you stop McGregor then you stop Celtic. A lot of people continue to misunderstand how great a role he plays in our success. Players in McGregor’s position never get the sexy headlines. They never get the love from the stands, or very seldom if there is goal-scoring pin up in the team.

Neil Lennon played in that role, and was underappreciated. One of the most important players in the Seville side was also one of the guys who is only occasionally hailed as a hero; Paul Lambert. These are the guys who do the dirty job. And if they are good then the whole team runs like a Swiss Watch. The boiler room boys. That’s why they call it the engine room.

So yes, I think stopping McGregor is one of the ways you can knock this team off its game. But doesn’t it say a lot for how the ex-Ibrox pros saw their own team’s chances of doing so that they had to advise people to try and put him on his backside? That their only advice was to be dirty, and cynical, and even brutal if that’s what it took?

That’s not a great vote of confidence in their football ability, is it?

In the end, none of their rough-housing worked.

Oh they tried, pitifully, weakly, meekly, they tried. They gave it the good old college try, but to no avail, because McGregor is simply better at what he does than they are. Even when they did manage to put him up in the air – when they could catch him – he didn’t respond with anger, but with good humour.

“Are you the new hard man?” he sarcastically asked Tom Lawrence when he had succeeded in leaving the boot in. It’s a brilliant way to deal with such treatment.

McGregor was well aware of the narrative surrounding him in this game, and what others had been saying. He chose to deal with it with mockery and scorn. “Throw at me what you like,” he was saying in that moment. “I’ll keep playing the game.”

And so he did. A lot of people thought O’Riley was the man of the match, but once again I thought it was Callum, playing a captain’s role, taking on that responsibility as a leader should. What was his opposite number doing? Hiding, as per usual … from Daizen Maeda mostly.

I remember when Callum took the armband from Brown, when a lot of people were wondering if this humble, charming, nice guy had the steel to be a Celtic captain in the modern age, an age when people think you need a snarl – what R. Lee Emery’s fearsome drill instructor would have called “a war face” – and the ability to leave the boot in in order to dominate on a football field. But Brown wasn’t a dirty player, just a very clever one and Callum is even smarter.

He’s grown into this job to the point now where I sometimes wonder what any of us were ever worried about, and you know what else?

He’s developed that hard edge; he’s got that toughness now and that reputation precedes him and makes his opponents nervous. That’s why Todd Cantwell had to do his mouthing from behind a half dozen of his team-mates back in April at Ibrox. Callum has also grown into one of our best performers in front of the media, as he proved last week.

All in all, I think McGregor is the quintessential Celtic captain now. I think whoever comes after him is going to have bigger shoes to step into than Callum did when he stepped into those of Scott Brown. That’s the magnitude of what he’s achieved in the role.

This was his weekend. He owned it. From Friday afternoon at the presser until he came off that pitch and gave his post-match interview, it belonged to him as much as it did the manager and having them both in place for next season gives us a head start on the opposition straight away.

Surround this guy with the right players, and another title will be the least of it.

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  • Roonsa says:

    I know there was some pushback on Barry Ferguson’s idiotic “battle fever” get stuck into them and hammer Calmac routine. A routine he doubled down on when he was called out on it. But that guy should not be in a job for such stupidity. Pretty much the same way Kenny Miller should never be employed ever again for his punditry “skills”.

    That we finished the game with no injuries (that I am aware of) stuns me. We all know what the mindset was. Back to the Rangers (1872 – 2012, RIP, thoughts and prayers) manrta of “If ye cannae get the ball, get the man. And make sure he doesn’t get back up”.

    Also that we are now almost 1/4 of the way through the 21st century and that is still acceptable beggars belief.

    Only in Scotland (and Turkey, apparently), eh?

    • Brattbakk says:

      AJ never recovered from Lundstrum’s lunacy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ralston start on Wednesday

      • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

        So potentially badly injured then – Job done for The Sevco Huns then…

        But potentially mentally injured (Sevco) – Job done by Brendan, Cal-Mac and Their Champions Elect Players !!!

    • Pat cannon says:

      James your comments about calum is spot on, the perfect modern day celtic captain, driven, passionate, articulate when dealing with a hostile meada and most importantly he can play

  • Tony B says:

    Peepul like Ferguson and McCall, plastic hard men in the true hun tradition, aren’t fit to lace Callum’s boots.

    We play football, they cheat and clug and tarnish the image of the beautiful game with their cowardly antics and permanent scowls on their miserable raging faces.

    Thank you God for making me a Tim instead of one of these wretches.

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      And so say all of us Tony…

      To quote Super Swally – ABSOLUTELY !

  • Pat cannon says:

    James your comments about calum is spot on, the perfect modern day celtic captain, driven, passionate, articulate when dealing with a hostile meada and most importantly he can play

  • Kwaj says:

    I think BR coming back without knowing for sure, I feel that he was pivotal in BR coming back. We won’t appreciate either as much as we should until they have gone. Imho

  • Mark b says:

    Totally agree. Celtic legend. In my view if you pick a Celtic team of last 30 years he is up there with MxStay Brown Lennon add Collins and Lambert also for talent. Wide men Nakamura Forrest with Sutton Larson up front. CCV Mjallby Van Dyk Tierney. Add Hartson Moravcik and these sorts of heros. He is that good and his contribution matches any of them.

  • Johnny Green says:

    Callum was brilliant on Saturday and he took everything in his stride including the bully boy tactics. You don’t play alongside Scott Brown for all those years and not learn from him and Callum is showing that same cockiness and disdain for the wannabee hammer throwers that Broonie did.

    If that’s your best shot numbnuts bring it on, let’s see where it gets you?

    He has that same bold attitude and it takes the sting out of most of them, at least the ones that can actually get close enough to him to be able to do anything.

    Long may Callum reign in the Celtic midfield, he is yet another legend born and bred in Paradise.

  • DannyGal says:

    Callum will certainly take his rightful place as a Celtic legend. People laughed at the prospect of the wee quiet Bhoy taking over from Broonie, apparently having neither the physical attributes or the swagger required to fill the legend’s boots. I have to admit I also doubted if Callum could fill the historic mantle of the Celtic Captain’s role in the manner of his predecessor. Bhoy has he proved me wrong! He’s a majestic Celtic Captain who leads his team with great dignity, strength, courage and plenty of skill thrown in!

  • JimBhoy says:

    Calmac brilliant player and will end up the most decorated Celt ever.

    A joy to see and hear this guy. He is so genuine, humble and intelligent and I hope will make a fantastic coach one day.

    The whole team ethos is the polar opposite to the rangers and it’s a joy to behold. Good to see the good guys coming out on top, the natural order of things restored.

    HH c’mon the dundee.!!!

  • Woodyiom says:

    Callum is a far far far better captain than Broony was and that’s saying something!! He epitomises what every player should be – driven, focussed, hardworking, relentless, talented, skilful, respectful, intelligent, articulate but most of all just a down to earth and humble local lad who is living his dream every day. I bet he’s an absolute joy to manage.

    Personally I hope he stays until he retires and goes straight into coaching with us. Whilst I understand (and agree to an extent re) the risks of “jobs for the boys” it cannot harm the first team to have ex top players in and around the dressing room who’ve been there done that and bought the t-shirt. Strachan brought Lenny back for that exact reason and I wish we’d made Broony an offer he couldn’t refuse when he hung his boots up rather than letting him go to Aberdeen as player/AM.

    Obviously if CM wants to become a manager then he’s going to have to leave us at some point and go manage elsewhere first and prove his abilities and success as a manager but losing him from the 1st team and the club as a whole at the same time would be a huge mistake.

    HH

  • Jim says:

    Celtic through and through and hun skelper in chief.

    They kick him. He bosses them.

  • watsamatabooboo says:

    Agree with every word of this James. It absolutely baffles me that there are many within our own support who not only don’t appreciate what Callum brings to us as a player let alone as captain, but who also don’t even rate him as a player.

    For me he is the complete midfielder, would not look out of place in any company, and is the best midfielder Scotland has produced since the Maestro himself.

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