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McGREGOR’S BARCA AGONY

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CALLUM McGREGOR was in agony the night Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Champions League on November 7, 2012.

The midfielder had undergone a hip operation in the build-up to the monumental confrontation – the club’s 125th birthday – and wasn’t even at Parkhead.

McGregor, 23, recalled: “I was still on crutches and was told I couldn’t go to the game because it was too dangerous.

“So, I had to watch it from the couch at home. It was mixed feelings for me. I was delighted to see the team get such an amazing result, but you just feel out of it in a situation like that.

“Tony Watt and I had played together in the same development team and I was made up for him that night. It was like a fairytale, coming on and scoring the winner.

“It was even what the win did for the team and the club after the game. The place was buzzing for weeks.

“I remember watching the match and promising myself that not only would I get back fit and stronger than ever, but that I would get to that level where I could play against the top teams.

“I have had a wee taste of the Champions League this season and, like everybody else, I am desperate to start.

“I don’t know whether I will or not, because that is obviously a call for the manager, but I hope that I am involved at some level.”

McGregor was a late second-half substitute for Nir Bitton as the Hoops kicked off Group C in disastrous style with their 7-0 drubbing from Barca in the Nou Camp in September.

He added: “It is funny. You grow up idolising some of these players. You see them playing in a glamorous league for one of the great football institutions, but when you are on the park it is 11 v 11.

“I can’t imagine that too many people will give us much of a chance – but that isn’t the way that we see it.

“We are not silly. We understand how hard it is going to be, but what would be the point of playing football if you had given up before a ball was kicked?

“If that game four years ago shows anything it is that shocks can – and do – happen. It is up to us to try and produce another one.

“If you look back at our record at Celtic Park, we are capable of going toe-to-toe with the best of teams.

“The Manchester City game here was incredible. The noise and the passion of both teams was amazing – you could sense the crowd willing us on.

“Hopefully, they can produce that level of noise again and we can produce that level of performance.

“We are ready to give our all. The manager is meticulous in his preparation. 

“Obviously, in a game like this against a top team, there are things that can happen, but, hopefully, we can go out and give a good account of ourselves.

“It has been brilliant to be in the Champions League this season, but I think the whole thing for us wasn’t just that we were in, but that we wanted to do well, too.

“We have had a really tough group. We have two games left to make an impact and then see where we are.

“But I think we are definitely a better team for the experience of being in the competition.

“We would like to think that it’ll stand us in good stead going forward.”

 
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