CALLUM McGREGOR insists Neil Lennon’s tactical rethink was a switch in time.
The Celtic boss worked on the team’s system during the mid-winter break and the players returned with a verve and vigour that was missing when they tumbled to their second Premiership loss of the season just before the turn of the year.
The Hoops lacked urgency as they were overpowered by Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side who won 2-1 to claim their first triumph in the east end of Glasgow in nine years.
Lennon, his players and the support knew the team had to more than offer than what was on show on December 29.
The Irishman answered his critics by redesigning his tactics and that led to the champions picking up 28 of the 30 points up for grabs following the campaign’s restart. The only hiccup came in the 2-2 draw with Livingston in West Lothian with Gary Holt’s upstarts only minutes away from a second home victory over the Parkhead outfit.
With the Betfred League Cup already in the trophy cabinet thanks to Christopher Jullien’s strike against the Govan club in December, Lennon’s side were leading the Premiership by 13 points with eight games to play and well on their way to nine in a row when football went into lockdown in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The holders were also due to play Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on Easter Sunday. Theoretically, the club were seven wins away from a phenomenal quadruple treble.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Neil Lennon cuddles Callum McGregor after yet another victory.
And Scotland international midfielder McGregor believes the manager, who returned to the club 15 months ago, deserves massive credit for the way things have worked out.
The rock-steady anchorman, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Think back to last February and the pressure he was under to finish off the treble.
“Then after he achieved that, people said: ‘Okay, can you go again?’ The gaffer has answered that tenfold.
“Everyone has been raving about the team’s performances, but you also need to look at the gaffer. So much time, effort and thought has gone into getting us into that frame of mind to be winners.
“He deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the job he has done since coming back.
“Even in the first half of the season, we won the Betfred League Cup and topped our Europa League group. Then we lost one game in December and the whole thing turned on us.
“The gaffer tweaked the system in January and you saw the results of that move. He wanted to free players up to attack, he wanted more goals and attacking football.
“He felt we’d lost a bit of our zest in the final third and wanted that back.
“The gaffer wanted more energy when we lost the ball and we worked on all of that in Dubai.
“We came back even stronger and that shows the work being put in behind the scenes.
“It shows how much of a top manager he is and his desire to win has rubbed off on the team.”
IN WITH A SHOUT…Callum McGregor celebrates his brilliant goal against Motherwell at Fir Park in February.
McGregor added: “My own goal return probably shows just how well the manager’s system tweak worked.
“He lets players go and play with freedom. We counter-attacked with real pace, power and threat. He wants us to attack in fives and sixes.
“You look back at the gaffer’s first spell at Celtic and his teams always scored a lot of goals. That’s the way he wants us to play
“It’s a bit different to Brendan’s style. We still scored a lot of goals, but it was more controlled.
“It just shows that with two different systems, you can still carry a huge attacking threat.
“We were on fire in that second half of the season and the gaffer deserves a lot of praise for that.”