Player of the Year-The Gold Medallist
Callum William McGregor (Captain)
Celtic’s Dynamic Midfield Duo of Captain Broony & Calmac The Bhoy Wonder finally parted company at the end of the Debacle Season 20/21.
Having lost the elusive ‘Ten’ and a host of stalwarts, the club was in turmoil and the support in open rebellion ( well, almost…) …
All seemed lost!!
The List of Things to Do:
New Chief Executive
New Captain – (How could we replace our beloved Captain Broony?)
New team (practically) required to counter the New Menace across the city.
Dark Knights… and Days, loomed ….Everyone who was anyone, was talking about a ‘season of transition’ and complete ‘rebuild’ from the ground up. The League Championship was practically conceded… and if the support are being completely honest, no one could realistically foresee anything other than Two in a Row at Ibrox.
We might hope and pray, but that was all we had.
Or was it?
The spotlight suddenly fell upon Callum McGregor and the new manager Ange, made him captain right away, in what was to turn out to be one of his most inspired decisions in a season full of inspired decisions.
Thinking back now, it should have been the obvious choice, but somehow it wasn’t really.
Callum has been at the club since he was eight and has never let us down. There was a period in the 4x Treble Winning era that he just oozed class, and his contribution to date from midfield realised a healthy tally of goals, (57) in 377 games.
In one 3 season run he contributed 31 goals and was running amok in his advanced attacking role. His best ever tally in a season was 2014 (14 goals) on loan at Notts County. He has had 12 (2018) and 13(2020) at Celts, but only 4 goals in each of the last two seasons.
Then we recall how he was shunted about a bit too much and utilised in a way that didn’t suit his style …. but he still got stuck in to become a Proper Invincible, with a string of Four (4) Trebles on the bounce, to add to his already impressive haul of medals and awards.
It should really have been no surprise:
Kieran Tierney, not exactly lacking in Leadership skills himself, was quoted as saying Broony and Callum ran the dressing room “never allowing us to slack” and forecast “Cal is Captain material, Cal he will be captain” high praise indeed from a teammate.
Then an Italian manager chips in with “One player who has particularly impressed me is the midfielder Callum McGregor. He is a classic modern, dynamic midfielder and excellent technique. He is EVERYTHING you need.”
Stefan Piloi (AC Milan manager) (Oct 2020)
Calmac clearly learned as understudy to Captain Broony, but could the Bhoy Wonder become Captain Wonder?
That question has been answered with an emphatic Yes!
There have been pivotal moments in the recent league campaign that pointed to the success achieved…with our Callum right at the heart of it.
Already we had witnessed his footballing prowess, his neat technique, energy and consistency, playing at least as many minutes of football as any other player in Europe.
But …Could he lead on the park?
Then some wee signs in the Huddle… the probing camera catching the intensity in his face, his fist pumping to emphasise his message to his players … seasoned pros like Joe Hart listening and nodding intently.
This Bhoy definitely ain’t shy.
There were signals of his growing influence and maturity, as he encouraged the entire squad including all backroom staff and support crews to join the League Cup celebrations at Hampden .. the victory and the manner of it, and part he played, shifted this doubter into onside mode.
Ironically, it was a shocking tackle (collision.. aye, right!!) that seemed to galvanise Callum in his captaincy role.
He took an absolutely outrageous clatter to the face in a 4th Round Scottish Cup tie (22nd of January, 22) against Alloa, that forced him onto the sidelines with a shattered face.
A tackle that epitomises the blatant thuggery our players have to contend with.
It takes a special kind of man to go out onto a football park in front of 60,000 fans, knowing your every move will be scrutinised. Few folk can handle that. Our Celtic players do this and in the full knowledge they are liable to be victims of horrific injuries from opponents emboldened & licensed by incompetent match officials. A darkly insidious charter that condones physical assaults by cowards.
Our players know this, and yet they they stand up, and that takes a special type of resilience.
Very few have it in them and our Callum has it, has it in bundles, and the sad cloggers have failed to understand… it makes him stronger, and more determined not to lie down to their futile attempts to intimidate him.
This was never more clearly illustrated than when the team faced a crucial visit from the Ibrox club (2nd February, ‘22) almost two weeks to the day his face was, In his own words “Broken”.
At the time there was genuine fear that he would cause himself serious injury, and his ‘Robin’ face mask would offer scant protection against thugs in the Scottish game. We saw cynical comments from a Sky panel member encouraging players to “test” the mask. To Callum’s credit he swatted away a potential storm by saying the matter was resolved between both men in a private conversation.
We Wonder what the Bhoy said to The Creep….face to face…
Any doubts about the wisdom of playing him against Sevco absolutely vanished as Celts ran amok, scoring 3 goals without reply in a First Half that McGregor led with what seemed to be new levels of vigour and tenacity. A particular case in point was how he dominated and terrified Barisic … a player fêted and adored at Ibrox, was reduced to a shuffling wreck.
Captain Callum had arrived. His team had moved into Top Slot and he was about to ensure they remained there.
‘The Man and The Masks’ a biography by Richard Ellemann (1988) on Irish poet WB Yeats, examined how we all ‘wear’ them to disguise our true inner self…. it occurs our Captain advanced to the fore wearing his white mask.
Ever behaved more assertively or confidently wearing a costume …maybe, stepped up?
Callum himself covered the subject rather well:
‘Every Celtic fan would play with a broken face, so why not me?’
Callum McGregor on derby return from injury that affected his sleeping and eating, Celtic won 3-0 (Feb 2022)
Folk point to Tony Ralston’s late, late 97th minutes winner at Ross County (15th December, 21) as the moment we felt we could actually do it, and there are some interesting stats elsewhere to back that view.
Certainly. A true team spirit emerged that day.
However, what really cemented belief, was our Captain’s response when Ramsey scored an early goal (3mins) against us at Ibrox (3rd April). The team were visibly shaken by the goal.
Or. Some of them were …
‘Oh! Oh! Is this the moment we capsize and run for the lifeboats?! … ‘
Not if Calmac has anything to say about it … and he did ..soon picking up the ball deep in midfield, and rediscovering his rarely seen attacking prowess, he advanced deep into The Old Firm defence. He opened the door with a pass that Tam Rogic eventually converted via Hatate.
Carter Vickers closed the deal, with a finely precision-drilled shot into the dark heart of the Copeland Road.
Then the game changed completely, the catalyst was a man who knew what was needed at a defining moment in the game, and he stepped right up and took full responsibility, and delivered.
That was the moment that won us the league, and it takes vision, passion wisdom and guts in abundance, to make those moments happen in front of 50,000 baying Sevvies.
Calmac silenced the hordes, adding to his considerable hoard of titles that day.
After the game his manager was drooling about his captain taking his team, 6 points and 16 goals, clear with only 6 games to go. “When your captain does that …” shakes his head…chuckling…wreathed in smiles.
He knew then, and in our hearts we knew too.
So did everyone else…
The Scotsman ran a line quoting BBC Radio who had been Calling on Callum for Player of the Year.
“It came from the run of Callum McGregor,” Bonner said on BBC Radio Scotland Sportsound. “That shows a real responsibility and a real captain, who has grown into it. He has had an unbelievable season.
“We were discussing yesterday the manager of the season, or player of the season at Celtic and I think Callum McGregor has been the best guy.”
“He has grown into it,” added Charlie Adam. “Consistently every week he’s fit, available, and wants to play. He had a big thing to come in after Scott Brown and boy has he stepped up to the mark.”
It’s interesting that his fellow professionals and Celtic fans voted for him …but the Scottish Press had Craig Gordon ….who had an absolutely cracking Scottish Cup Final…
The old ‘one-two’ at Ibrox
Looking ahead to Season 22/23 we can anticipate seeing Callum lead his teammates to some European glory and hopefully, from a more advanced position in midfield.
He thrives there.
Sentinels will all have their own memories and thoughts on what player contributed most last season. There is plenty of room below, please fire in folks.
Callum William McGregor b. 1993 Glasgow.
377 games 57 goals.
7 Scottish league Championships
4 Scottish Cups
5 Scottish league Cups
41 Scottish International caps ( 1 goal)
Roddy Frame with Scottish Folk Song : The ‘Bhoy’ Wonders…
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