CALLUM McGREGOR lasted just over an hour against Aberdeen at Hampden yesterday before calling it a day.

The Celtic captain looked a weary figure as Brendan Rodgers gave him a pat on his back while he trudged off with the Scottish Cup semi-final finely balanced at 1-1 with the outcome of an engrossing duel far from certain.

McGregor was clearly disappointed after his best efforts had failed to pave a course to the showpiece showdown at the national stadium on May 25.

The inspirational 30-year-old onfield leader was never going to be tasked with playing the entire 90 minutes against a determined Dons side who were up for the scrap.

UP FOR THE CUP…Callum McGregor in action in the early stages against Aberdeen.

There was an obvious prearranged understanding that the midfielder would play for a segment of the encounter before making way for Tomoki Iwata, a more than capable deputy in the anchorman role.

It was a gamble that came so close to a spectacular backfire.

Please don’t accuse me of being smart after the event. I voiced my concerns over McGregor’s fitness levels in a pre-match article in CQN yesterday.

I had seen nothing to enthuse over in the player’s two brief appearances in the 3-3 draw at Ibrox and 3-0 win over St Mirren since his last start against Dundee on February 28 when he was withdrawn at the interval of the 7-1 romp.

It emerged the skipper had been troubled with an Achilles problem and I know these are injuries that need to be treated with a lot of respect.

McGregor missed four games on the bounce – Hearts (0-2), Livingston (4-2 and 3-0) and St Johnstone (3-1) – before getting just over 30 minutes against Philippe Clement’s outfit in Govan.

ALL YOURS…Callum McGregor passes on the captain’s armband to Cameron Carter-Vickers.

It looked a step too early for the Scotland international whose desire to play in the fixture was understandably fierce with an ambition to match.

That appearance was followed by an 18-minute outing in the victory over the Paisley side at Parkhead last weekend.

I said here yesterday that the much-decorated Celt had not shown enough in his brief outings to be guaranteed a starting place at the national stadium in a contest with so much at stake.

I wouldn’t even presume to tell either the manager or the skipper how to go about Celtic’s business, but I admit I was more than a little surprised to see the captain lead out the team on this occasion.

To be fair to a competitive performer, McGregor put himself about with his usual verve and gusto, but there was no way he could sustain that level of commitment.

Now the influential talisman has a period of recuperation and the opportunity to tailor his rehab at Lennoxtown before the champions take on Dundee at Dens Park a week today.

WEARY…a frustrated-looking Callum McGregor is comforted by Brendan Rodgers as he comes off in the 62nd minute at Hampden. 

Like everyone of a Celtic persuasion, I would welcome the sight of McGregor guiding the team to three more points in the quest for a twelfth title in 13 years.

However, my desire to see the influential performer in his rightful place is not overwhelmed by a failure to comprehend the consequences which could be dire if he is not fully match fit and ready for action.

It’s a dilemma that must be confronted with a superabundance of common sense.

Obviously, it’s in everyone’s best interests for the real Callum McGregor to lead from the front as he has done so admirably over the years.

No-one wants to witness a pale shadow in that No.42 shirt.



Click Here for Comments >

About Author