GORDON STRACHAN insists Callum McGregor is “irreplaceable” in Brendan Rodgers’ line-up in the champions’ bid for a twelfth title in 13 years.

The inspirational captain has been performing with breathtaking consistency even as Celtic have struggled to grind out crucial points in a demanding campaign.

It has been tough going, but the Hoops have been in pole position in the Premiership since day one, albeit now only by virtue of scoring more goals than their nearest challengers from Ibrox.

Rodgers and his players face 13 vitally important league outings between now and the campaign’s climax and there is little room for more banana-skin performances as they displayed in the poor showings in back-to-back losses against Kilmarnock and Hearts in December when six points were carelessly shed.

HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Callum McGregor celebrates his strike in the 3-1 win over St Johnstone in Perth in December.

Those two setbacks remain the team’s only Premiership losses this term, but McGregor and Co have rallied to the cause with eight victories in an unbeaten sequence of nine domestic outings.

And Strachan reckons Rodgers should make certain his skipper dodges any mishaps and make sure he is not forced to miss a series of encounters.

The former Hoops and Scotland international gaffer said: “Celtic can handle the absences of every single player apart from one man – Callum McGregor.

“He is irreplaceable. If he got injured, I would be worried.

“If I was a Celtic fan, I’d be worried about keeping McGregor fit for the remainder of the season.”

FLAG HAPPY…Callum McGregor has the backing of the Celtic fans.

The Hoops, of course, have had their problems in the engine room of the team this season with Reo Hatate hardly figuring with the alarm bells sounding as early as the second game of the crusade against Aberdeen at Pittodrie in August.

The Japanese playmaker replaced David Turnbull at the interval and was forced to come off midway through the half with hamstring problems.

Hatate has flitted in and out of the team and has now returned from international duty with his country in the Asian Cup with a recurrence of the troublesome injury that has decimated his season.

Paulo Bernardo has also taken some time to settle in at Parkhead, but the on-loan Benfica man showed promise nearing the turn of the years with eyecatching outings and crucial opening goals in the 3-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day and again in the derby at Parkhead four days later.

However, the loss of influential McGregor is unthinkable for the one-time team chief who won a hat-trick of championships during his reign in the Hoops dug-out after taking over from Martin O’Neill in 2005.

SCREEN GEM…Callum McGregor and Brendan Rodgers celebrate another Celtic triumph.

Strachan, in a report in the Daily Record, added: “If I was the manager, I would take Callum home every night after training and sit him down next to me.

“I’d keep him fed, watered and wrapped in cotton wool. I’d tuck him into bed at night because he is such an important figure.

“As a manager, if you’re leading the pack at this stage of the season by a few points, the message to the players would typically be, relax.”

Captain marvel McGregor will make sure his team-mates don’t take that advice too literally when Kilmarnock come visiting tomorrow afternoon.

Click Here for Comments >

About Author