CALLUM MCGREGOR has revealed the “personal” hurt he felt last season as Celtic lost the title by 25 points, with the club’s ten-in-a-row ambitions scorched by a chaotic campaign.

Celtic can take a significant step this afternoon when they host Rangers in applying a salve to those wounds last season; a win over the Ibrox side would not guarantee the title mathematically but given the goal difference between the sides it would be a title-clinching game in all but name.

McGregor, who assumed the captaincy as Scott Brown brought down the curtain on a 14-year Celtic career last summer, readily acknowledged that lifting the Championship trophy with the armband this term would be the pinnacle of his career so far.

It is a far cry from the darkness of where Celtic were this time a year ago.
"Absolutely, I took it personally - what we went through as a club last season,” said McGregor. “I wanted to come back and show people that was a one-off and we can go again. When the players and manager came through the door, I thought, 'they fancy this' you could see it in their eyes and they have been brilliant so far and it's just about us staying calm and trying to finish it off in the right manner.

“You take it personally in terms of a really bad season for the club and everything else that went with that, all the press surrounding it and everything else. It was probably harder during the season but once we came away from it we knew it was a fresh start, that's done now, we get over and done with, go the Euros, have a good Euros and come back and you are ready with a clean slate to prove people wrong again.

“That bit of the season was really difficult but once it was finished, it was more put that out your system and go again.

“Absolutely [it would be the high point of my career to lift the title]. To captain the club anyway is such a massive honour. Every time I go on the pitch I give everything: for the club, for the supporters, for my teammates, and if we can go and finish it off and make it a successful season and potentially lift the trophy that would be a dream come true.”

McGregor’s consistency this season has been reflected in his presence across the individual awards. Nominated for Player of the Year by both the PFA and the SFWA, the midfielder has revealed that the joy in his game was rediscovered as Ange Postecoglou told the players to rekindle the early relationship they had with football.

“He always talks about when you are a young kid playing football at seven, eight years old; what did you want to do, you wanted to get loads of touches on the ball, you wanted to be attacking, you wanted to play forward, this is why I want to play this type of football, I want to take you back to that seven, eight, nine-year-old kid that's just desperate to play and touch the ball and feel good about playing about football,” said McGregor. “That's his whole philosophy and he's implemented that to a really high standard.”

McGregor was always regarded as the automatic choice for the captaincy but Postecoglou was coy in his opening weeks as he held off announcing his decision. And McGregor has revealed that he wanted to earn the accolade rather than simply be handed it.
“We went back for pre-season and we talked away and I think we both really liked each other,” said McGregor. 

“We liked the vision that he had and he was happy with me and he laid out his plans for the team and it just sort of rolled from there. He is a classy guy anyway but straight away he reached out and that made me feel good and feel at ease. 

“You want it [the captaincy] on your own merit. You want him to come in and see for yourself what you are about. It might have been easy for him (to do it) at the time but he might have been going on someone else’s opinion or what he thought people wanted to see so I think the way he did it was spot on. 

“You know at first I am going back in and I want to impress him and then you go about your business the way that you do. Trying to lead in terms of performance and the way that you do things every day. I think he had to see it for himself, he is coming in as the manager and he can go and sign anyone that he wants. If he then looks at me and thinks I am the right guy for the job based on what he is seeing in training and in the building then you have almost got it on merit rather than him just taking the easy option.”

McGregor will help Celtic deliver what will be a tenth title in eleven seasons. And despite the harrowing nature of last term he has revealed there was never a possibility of jumping ship. 

“No, not at all,” he said. “Like I say when we had a poor season straight away I was thinking we need to put this right and that was my motivation. I love the club, I have committed my future here and I take it personally. If we win I am the happiest guy in the world and if we lose then I don’t speak for three days. 

“The beauty of this group is there's still more to come, more development in the players with the way the manager wants to play to try and take us to the next level.”