CALLUM McGREGOR insists he had no intention of joining the Celtic star trek after the club’s wretched campaign in which they failed miserably to achieve the historic tenth successive title.

The team limped in an inexplicable 25 points adrift at the top of the Premiership after their nine-year domination of the crown.

The stumbling Parkhead outfit were on their way to their first trophyless campaign in 11 years long before the curtain came down on an embarrassing term in which Neil Lennon lost his job in February – just two days after an unacceptable 1-0 loss to Ross County in Dingwall.

John Kennedy was put in charge in an interim capacity for the remaining 10 games while the Hoops hierarchy actively sought a new manager.

DESPAIR…Callum McGregor can’t hide his disappointment during last season’s fall from grace.

DELIGHT…Callum McGregor is all smiles after the Premier Sports League Cup triumph in December.

It was a summer of turmoil and top scorer Odsonne Edouard and internationals Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie made it clear they had no intention of hanging around. Legendary skipper Scott Brown had already said he would be pulling down the curtain on 14-year career in Glasgow that saw him pick up an anstonishing hail of 22 honours.

Even bit-part players such as Olivier Ntcham were desperate to leave while loan players such as Shane Duffy, Diego Laxalt, Jonjoe Kenny and Mohamed Elyounoussi all returned to their parent clubs.

However, McGregor, despite reports of interest from the Premier League, remained resolute – and he will take a giant stride forward this afternoon to his first title win as Hoops captain after being bestowed the honour by Ange Postecoglou in the summer.

A win over Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox outfit will push Celtic nine points clear at the pinnacle with only three games to play.

THREE CHEERS…two-goal Kyogo Furuhashi, manager Ange Postecoglou and captain Callum McGregor pose happily with the Premier Sports League Cup after the 2-1 win over Hibs at Hampden six days before Christmas. 

Asked if he considered joining the end-of-season exodus, the 28-year-old Scotland international anchorman answered: “No, not at all. We had a poor season, but straight away, I was thinking: ‘We need to put this right’.

“That was my motivation. I love this club, I’ve committed my future here and I took it personally.

“If we win, I’m the happiest guy in the world and if we lose, I won’t speak for three days.

“There was never a point where I was going to take the easy option and leave.

“I wanted to come back and put the record straight.

“I wanted to show people that it was a one-off and that we could go again.

“Would it be the pinnacle of my career to lift the trophy as captain? Absolutely.”

CAPTAIN’S ROLE…Callum McGregor is poised to lead Celtic to title glory.

Postecoglou has not wavered from his attacking ideals even in the face of severe criticism when the team lost three of their first six Premiership outings at Tynecastle, Ibrox and Livingston.

The Premier Sports League Cup was won in a dramatic comeback 2-1 triumph over Hibs in December with two goals from lively Japanese striker Kyogo Furuhashi and now the club are eyeing a £40million Champions League windfall.

McGregor, who is under contract until May 2026, is confident the team’s positive attacking outlook will be successful and, speaking to the Sunday Mail, added: “It’s two top teams fighting it out for the league.

“Normally, people say these games take care of themselves and it’s about your form in the other games.

“But both teams have been pretty good against the rest of the league.

“It’s going to come down to these four games and if you can win them it will pretty much get you over the line.

“These games have been big. The one at Ibrox a few weeks ago was massive in terms of getting that six-point gap at the top.

“Now we just need to close it up.”

Celtic – and their redoubtable onfield inspiration – will aim to achieve success with their usual flourish.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Rangers this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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