CALLUM McGREGOR has emerged as Celtic’s man for all reasons as he continues to earn praise from Brendan Rodgers.
The second time-around manager is just as convinced of his skipper’s all-round talents today as he was when he first arrived at the club in May 2016.
The sheer versatility of the 30-year-old Glaswegian has Rodgers in awe of an “ideal footballer”.
McGregor moved from his usual anchorman role to a more advanced position with Tomoki Iwata seamlessly taking over the more defensive duties in the convincing 4-1 win over Hibs at Parkhead in midweek.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…captain supreme Callum McGregor celebrates his exquisite equaliser in Celtic’s 3-1 win over St Johnstone in Perth.
The changes clicked right from kick-off, Oh Hyeon-gyu opened the scoring in the fifth minute and there was only one destination for the points after that. The South Korean added the fourth goal with Matt O’Riley and Luis Palma (pen) scoring in between.
It could be a case of same again as the champions prepare for Sunday’s visit to Rugby Park to face a Kilmarnock side on a high after their late triumph over Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Wednesday.
Reflecting on McGregor’s performance against the Edinburgh outfit, Rodgers said: “I really enjoyed watching him. He took me back to my first time here. He’s such a special player for this team in so many ways – and for the club as a whole.
“From a psychological perspective, to have the desire, the mentality and the hunger to continually want to succeed is phenomenal, really. I’ve played him in virtually every position bar goalkeeper and centre-half in my two spells. He’s just tactically brilliant in the game.
“Putting him up one, you can see what he can do. He can get forward, he’s clever, he can link the game and he can get shots off.
“He’s got big quality to score goals – in my first time here, he was very, very good at that.
“I thought him and Matt O’Riley were excellent against Hibs. Matt is so graceful around the pitch and played with big quality the other night. Tomo just stabilises it in there, to win the ball and play it simple.”
FOLLOW THE LEADER…Callum McGregor points the way ahead.
Explaining the change in the inspirational captain’s role, Rodgers, apeaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It would have happened before, but Tomo [Iwata] wasn’t available.
“He’s shown up very well in training and in the games where he’s come in, he’s done well. Against a good side like Hibs, you can see it’s something that can function well.
“Cal can take it in his stride because he’s so, so clever, you really only ever have to tell him anything once. You’re not having to repeat anything with him.
“He’s an absolutely incredible player and captain of the team. Whether he plays as an 8, an inverted full-back, a controller, wherever, he plays the game to the highest level.”
McGregor was introduced to the Hoops line-up by Ronny Deila as a wide right attacking player in July 2014, but has performed in a variety of roles since his breakthrough which he marked with the only goal of the European qualifier against KR Rejkyavik in Iceland.
The Hoops gaffer added: “He’s a brilliant example for the other players. If you talk about an ideal footballer, having mental strength and the ability to interpret different systems, being competitive, having quality and being physically brave, he’s all of that.
“He’s the ideal footballer you would want in your team. He reminds me very much of the captain [Scott Brown] we had when I was first here. Just that relentless mentality. Every game he’s up for it. He’s a real inspirational voice for his team-mates.
“He’s always there, you can rely on him, and every game is like his last game. He’s a brilliant performer.”