Callum McGregor burst onto the scene on his Celtic debut with the only goal in a Champions League qualifier in Iceland. More goals followed before that campaign against Legia Warsaw and Maribor, but his early promise as a right-winger faded.
It was Ronnie Deila who introduced him to the first team but he did not flourish into the MVP he now is until the arrival of Brendan Rodgers. Callum was an invincible treble winner but Scotland manager, Gordon Strachan, declined to give him a cap.
Strachan resigned in October 2017 and caretaker Malky Mackay used a friendly game against Netherlands the following month to give international debuts to Callum and Ryan Christie. Just over a year later, he is set to captain his country for the first time.
By any measure, Gordon Strachan is a successful manager, better, for sure, than Malky Mackay, but for a year Gordon resisted what seemed obvious to the rest of Scottish football, including Malky – Callum McGregor was one of the finest Scottish footballers around.
There is a professional arrogance in most businesses (certainly in mine). It goes something like “I do this for a living so know what I’m talking about, you’ve never done this, so don’t.” Try speaking to ANYONE involved in the football business and you will hear a version of this, politely delivered or otherwise.
For the most part in football, this professional arrogance is well founded. Those who have not played the game in decades, or at any significant level, or even worked in the administration of the game, have insufficient knowledge about any task to tell someone who has massively achieved at every level as player and manager for 40 years where they are going wrong.
But still, you, me and Malky MacKay knew what Gordon Strachan didn’t. The problem with football is that there is no clear way to measure player performances across clubs, tactics, leagues and managerial instructions.
The game’s latest arms race is in interpreting the stats now gathered on practically every top tier match in the world. As Callum McGregor has shown, there is a long way to go before objectivity tops subjective ‘wisdom’.