Callum McGregor urges Celtic to dish out derby hurt after Rangers agony as he WELCOMES Barry Ferguson's attack signal

Callum was in agony after facing Rangers last time. Now he wants Celtic to be dishing out the hurt.

And, as he gets set for a title-defining day, the skipper admits clinching this term’s flag would be one of his biggest achievements. McGregor says Celtic are currently in their best shape of the season to complete the job and he, too, is approaching full tilt after his achilles injury.

It was different five weeks ago when he fought back for the last derby at Ibrox and came off the bench. McGregor battled through, but, reflecting on the differences between now compared to the previous encounter, the captain said: “Aye I was still in agony after that game! Of course, we knew that it was going to be a big risk, but we wanted to take it. We thought it was important. We took that decision and crossed our fingers a little bit.

“I had to just grit my teeth and get through it. We knew the type of injury it was that it can be sore. But, once we established no further damage could be done, then we were happy to take that risk and push through.

“We had to be pretty careful all the way. Probably only the last two weeks I’ve felt much better and freer in the movement and everything else.”

The huge ovation which greeted his 60-yard backtracking run to rob Hearts’ Kenneth Vargas seven days ago which signalled his wellbeing lifted the support. He said: “Obviously coming back from injury and getting up to speed again, it’s a good moment to put it to bed.

“You feel good and things are moving in the right direction. Sometimes something happens in the game and you just have to react. Your brain takes over and it’s nice to have that positive moment and try to move on and put it behind you.

“I’m moving much better now, aye. I think just given the nature of the injury and the timeline at the beginning, I think that’s why there has been a bit of confusion around it.

“The timeline was quite extensive and we had a chat that we wanted to try and be as aggressive as possible so that we could get back in time for these games and the finish to the season. There’ve been some bumps in the road and it’s been pretty sore at times, but it’s like anything in life, you’ve just got to grit your teeth and get on with it.

“It seems to be moving in the right direction, which is good. Touch wood, nothing goes wrong now. I think if you ask any footballer, when you get injured it is probably the most difficult time in your career, especially when you are coming into the business end of the season when the trophies are getting handed out.”

With his pain gone, McGregor is now looking for the hurt to be handed out to Rangers. It’ll be the skipper’s 38th experience of the derby and he’s pivotal.

Adam Idah celebrates with Callum McGregor -Credit:SNS Group
Adam Idah celebrates with Callum McGregor -Credit:SNS Group

Record Sport columnist and ex-Rangers skipper Barry Ferguson reckons his old team have to stop the Celtic leader from dictating affairs. But McGregor says his side have various ways to inflict anguish and said: “That’s the theory. if they’re concentrating on me, then someone else can go and win the game for us!

“I think when these types of things are being said about you, you have to take that as a compliment. But we have a system where, if you try to overload one player, we can hurt you in different areas.”

Victory for Celtic would move them six points clear in the title race with two games to go and put a hand on the trophy. Given some of the difficulties which have come his team’s way this term, it would feel huge for McGregor.

He said: “Everyone is different, there are always different challenges and, probably for a little while, this one has to-and-froed for a little bit. We have three games to do it and, if we manage to get over the line, then for sure, it will be up there with the best achievements.

“There’s not been any secret made of we’ve had to show a lot of resilience as a club this season. Difficult moments, being ahead, sort of throwing it away a little bit, but then wresting the control back again.

“It is never going to be a perfect season. Change of manager, players leaving and coming in and these things take time.

“But the one thing we have always done is stick by each other and, just naturally, when you get to the business end of the season, then the whole thing comes alive a little bit as well.”

McGregor says Celtic are in the best shape of the season to do it and continued: “I think we are in a good place, but the only way to stay there is to continue to do the basics and then, when the games come along, you show everything you have got.

“One thing we try to do early when new players come in is make them understand what the football club they are at and what the expectation is. I think it is important that, straight away, they understand you have to win and, when you arrive in the big moments, it has to become normal for you to deal with the pressure and come through the most difficult moments and be a winner. The job is success.

“Any time you meet someone in the street, in the supermarket, coffee shops, all they’re talking about is: You’d better win on Saturday. And they’re not joking. It’s a serious thing and, when the players understand that, it gives you a sense of how important your role is within the club.”