CALLUM McGREGOR accepted the challenge after Livingston had taken a shock lead via the penalty spot in the crucial encounter at Parkhead yesterday.

The champions went into the game knowing a win of any sort would put them back on top of the Premiership.

But they were given a jolt when referee Gavin Duncan, after rejecting a Hoops spot-kick shout only 22 seconds earlier, awarded Gary Holt’s side a penalty after adjudging Kristoffer Ajer had handled a right-wing cross.

Jason Holt fired wide of Vasilis Barkas and Neil Lennon’s men knew they had to respond quickly. McGregor answered the call with a brilliant equaliser four minutes later and then he set up Greg Taylor on the left for the defnder to pick out Ryan Christie for the second goal.

Celtic went on to win 3-2 with Albian Ajeti getting the winner – as he did on his debut against Dundee United at Tannadice last month.

McGregor is being tipped as the natural successor to Scott Brown as the next captain of Scotland’s title kings – and it’s an honour he admitted he would cherish.

The 27-year-old midfield ace, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said: “The 
manager and Scott were 
captains who have led this club so well.

TAKE AIM…Callum McGregor prepares to hammer in the Hoops’ leveller with Efe Ambrose looking on.

“To hear them say nice things about me makes me proud and feel good. If the club ever decided to make me captain, I’d be delighted. A dream come true.

“It would be a hugely proud moment for myself to come right through the system and be captain.

“I was skipper at a few different age groups, but you can’t compare it – football can be a bit crazy when you’re younger.

“Now, to be a first-team player at Celtic and a Scotland international, it starts to become real. You grow into that role, you start to understand more about yourself, so to have those guys speak about me in that regard makes me really proud.

“When I went out on loan to Notts County seven years ago my thoughts were a million miles away from being captain.

“I was just trying do well and impress so I could get back in the team. Back then, I never thought about being made captain. I just wanted get back into the fold.

FIRE…Callum McGregor (extreme left) watches his shot soar past Livi keeper Robbie McCrorie.

“Over the last few years, I’ve grown in
 stature, in terms of my place in the team.

“We’re now at a point where people are talking about it maybe happening.

“That just shows how good a journey I’ve been on from breaking through and 
reaching this point.”

With their Europa League qualifier in Latvia against Riga due on Thursday followed by Hibs at Parkhead on Sunday, McGregor and his team-mates face a hectic schedule.

However, the player, who has racked up 125 games in the past two seasons, isn’t complaining.

He added: “We have a big squad and everyone is wanting football, so we’re delighted to have so many games coming up.

“We were stuck sitting in the house for so long and now we are finally getting back into a rhythm.”


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