Callum McGregor is Celtic 'colossus' after battling through pain barrier to see off Rangers - inside the Parkhead camp

Greg Taylor insists captain Callum McGregor is a Celtic colossus. And the unsung Parkhead hero also singled-out the skipper’s sparking sidekick Matt O’Riley for being an outstanding contributor in the fight for the title.

Brendan Rodgers had terrific performers in every area of the pitch as they took care of Rangers in a massive moment. None shone brighter than their magnificent midfield duo. As the champions placed one hand back on their Premiership trophy by sinking their nearest challengers, McGregor was an inspiration. The 30-year-old led from the front in a sublime display.

McGregor was a picture of calm and composure in the heat of the battle. The midfielder displayed authority and, given he’s not yet back to peak fitness following an achilles injury, it was a mighty showing. McGregor’s displays against Hearts the previous week and Rangers have been critical for Rodgers and the squad and Taylor acknowledged: “He’s a winner, isn’t he?

Celtic's Callum McGregor celebrates following the win over Rangers
Celtic's Callum McGregor celebrates following the win over Rangers -Credit:PA

“He leads by example and drags other boys with him. He’s just a colossus in the middle of the park. A real leader for us. He inspires other people. He makes other people around him better, which is an unbelievable trait to have as well as his individual performance. It’s amazing to have him.”

McGregor has had to nurse and manage his way back from the injury and Taylor knows exactly how his captain has been feeling. Asked if team-mates had helped him through, Taylor explained: “Yeah, totally. Achilles tendonitis isn’t good. I’ve suffered with it and still suffer with it, so I feel him there, it’s tough in the mornings.”

McGregor may be sore, but he’s been inflicting pain on rivals for years at Celtic and has been at it again just at the right time for Rodgers. When the captain had to succumb to the injury back in February, the squad needed to get through a vital stage of the run-in without him.

Taylor knew the importance of the skipper back and he duly made his comeback against Rangers in the previous meeting of the sides last month. It’s been important for Rodgers and the troops to have his influence, but Taylor said: “Everyone wanted him back because we know what he can do for us, but I don’t think it’s a case of us running extra hard because Callum is in pain. We’re running hard because we want to win for the team. That’s the main focus, the main objective.”

-Credit:SNS Group
-Credit:SNS Group

McGregor’s display was topped off by an assist for O’Riley to smack the all-important opener past Jack Butland. Although he had a penalty saved by the Rangers No.1 in the second period,

it was the only blip in an otherwise stellar showing from the Denmark international. O’Riley has been instrumental throughout the term in the eyes of Taylor, who said: “He’s a top player who has had an unbelievable season.

“He was comfortably the best player in the country up until January, and he’s peaking again right now. The last few weeks he has been outstanding and a real pivotal player for us.”

Scotland boss Steve Clarke will also be thrilled to see McGregor in-form ahead of next month’s showpiece tournament in Germany and O’Riley could be with Denmark.

Taylor may also be there, yet nothing can take away club focus right now as he said: “The Euros will take care of themselves when they come about, but all the focus is on Celtic right now. We’ve got three games left and we need to finish strongly.”

While McGregor and O’Riley were wonderful, Taylor was amongst the unit who also stood tall on the big day. The left-back played his part in getting the team into a commanding position and was also there in the closing stages to make sure of no late slips.

Celtic rose to the occasion with another sharp Old Firm show and, assessing the contest, Taylor said: “I thought we started the game really well in terms of getting the fans with us early doors, the place was rocking.

“At 2-0, we were really dominant and we could have had a few before that. But then I think we probably took our eye off it a wee bit when we lost the goal.

“That was disappointing as a collective, as a unit. But we started the second half really, really well again, were dominant and probably should have been three or four-one up. Then we missed the penalty and got a wee bit edgy as a team. But we showed big heart to follow through with the win.”

Edginess was understandable given the circumstances of the season as much as those of the actual game. Victory was always going to put Celtic in full control of the title race with only two games remaining and O’Riley’s penalty was a chance to finish it. His miss meant it was never over until the final whistle and, when asked if it was human nature to get edgy in that scenario, Taylor said: “I think it is, to be honest.

“Most teams, when you miss a big opportunity like that, you can feel the nerves. It was such a big occasion and everyone knew what was on the line, so it’s natural.

“But a lot of boys out there showed heart and I thought the subs coming on played a big part as well, running themselves into the ground on a hot day. It was a real collective team effort.”