24 May 2024

Pain of losing drives Celtic captain Callum McGregor to further success

24 May 2024

Celtic captain Callum McGregor cannot even remember his last cup final defeat but the pain of losing continues to drive him to more success.

McGregor will lift his seventh trophy in three years as skipper if Celtic beat Rangers in Saturday’s Scottish Gas Scottish Cup final and collect the 22nd major winners’ medal in his professional career.

The winning habit was long ingrained. The midfielder won four-consecutive Scottish Youth Cup finals for Celtic before kick-starting his first-team career with a loan spell at Notts County in 2013.

“The way that I’ve been brought up, the way that my football career has panned out so far, I’ve tried to maximise every opportunity that I’ve got and at the start of the season, I want to try and win everything that we’re in,” the 30-year-old said.

“When you lose one, then it hurts and that stays with you and throughout my career, I’ve tried to limit the amount of teams that I felt like that. So, come Saturday, I’m going to try and limit the amount of times I feel like that again.

“So that’s where I am and that’s what I try to get across to the players- that come Saturday afternoon, we obviously want to be the one standing with the trophy.

“Psychologically, you just get yourself into a place where you know with semi-finals and finals, it’s all on the line. You don’t get second chances so you just have to prepare yourself to try and go to the limit to get yourself over the line.”

McGregor genuinely could not remember when he last suffered a cup final loss.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s been a while and there’s obviously been a bit made about that in previous years but when they get to these occasions, I just try and really focus in on the occasion, on the game, what you have got to do to make it a success and focus on the team.

“And, again, that will be the thing that gets us over the line, that selflessness and team ethic and the team working for each other and running and doing all the really nasty bits of the game that hopefully take us over the line.”

Rangers midfielder Todd Cantwell recently claimed he probably wanted to win more than McGregor because of the stages of their careers. But Scotland international McGregor was not one to rest on past success.

“I’ve been very lucky and very fortunate,” he said. “Obviously, there’s been a lot of hard work and dedication and of course you’ve got to go and do it and you’ve got to be successful, so I’m really thankful for that and obviously proud of what I’ve achieved.

“But the nature of being at Celtic is the next trophy that’s on offer, you’re under pressure to deliver and that’s the way that I try and work.

“It’s the way I try and get the players to understand. When they play for this football club, it demands success.

“So Saturday is another opportunity for us to go and try and make a lot of people happy.”

McGregor and his team-mates have done that against Rangers this season, taking 10 points from four league encounters on their way to the title.

“Of course, you take a small degree of comfort in that but, again, we know what cup finals are like. We know what these derby games are like,” he said. “If you don’t turn up on the day then you make it really difficult to get a result.

“So we understand what we have to give to the game. Obviously we’ve played each other four times now so both teams will know each other reasonably well and it comes down what are the players prepared to give, who turns up and plays well on the day and who maybe gets that bit of luck to get them over the line.”

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