In-form Callum McGregor can't wait for Celtic's next game
Ladbrokes Premiership: Celtic v St Johnstone (today, 3pm)
MIDFIELDER Callum McGregor has enjoyed the best fortnight of his Celtic career. The 23-year-old, who has been at the Parkhead club since he was nine years old, aside from a loan spell at Notts County, has spent the week basking in the glory of the Hoops’ biggest ever win over Old Firm rivals Rangers at Ibrox.
McGregor scored the third in a 5-1 thumping of the Gers a week after notching against the Light Blues in the 2-0 William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final win at Hampden Park.
Ahead of the visit of St Johnstone in the Ladbrokes Premiership today, where Brendan Rodgers’ treble-chasing side look to maintain their unbeaten domestic run, McGregor said: “It has been incredible, this week and last week, to get those two goals against Rangers and to beat them convincingly. It has been brilliant.
“It has been a good period for me. Building into the two Rangers games I was playing well and gaining more and more confidence, so it has been a good period for myself.
“When you are doing well and scoring goals you just want to keep playing and keep the games coming.”
A year ago Celtic had been knocked out of the Scottish Cup semi-final by Rangers in a penalty shoot-out.
Rodgers took over from Norwegian boss Ronny Deila in the summer and McGregor revealed the difference the Carnlough man has made to a side who stand a Scottish Cup final win over Aberdeen away from clinching the treble.
He said: “It has been a total contrast.
“That was a bad period for the club, a bad week for the club and you see how far we have come on from that.
“With 2,000 people showing up to see us modelling the new kit (on Thursday), it is an incredible feel-good factor.
“When you are in the team you need to do well to stay in and obviously you want to be a part of that day (final) as well.
“I am sure all the players between now and then will be doing their best to keep in the manager’s thoughts.
“Every game for Celtic is a massive game but you want to make sure you are in the team that day.”
McGregor credited Rodgers with instilling confidence into his game and he looks forward to building on that form next season.
“You’ve played in the big games and affected them,” he said.
“It’s good to have that going into next year and hopefully kick on.
“We’ll come back in with that fresh hunger to get even better.”
Rodgers is on the shortlist for the PFA Scotland manager of the year award along with Derek McInnes of Aberdeen, Partick Thistle’s Alan Archibald and Morton’s Jim Duffy.
The former Swansea and Liverpool boss paid tribute to Saints counterpart and fellow Irishman Tommy Wright.
Saints showed the quality which saw them again clinch a top-six spot when they beat Aberdeen 2-0 at Pittodrie last week.
“It is a great achievement,” said Rodgers.
“Having played against them three times, he sets his team up very,very well.
“His result last week away at Aberdeen shows they are a really tough team to play against.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game.
“We’re at home, we have to always respect Tommy and his team but will again look to get a good result.”
Celtic skipper Scott Brown serves the first of a two-match suspension today.
Defender Mikael Lustig will be rested following an arduous season.
Striker Moussa Dembele remains out with a hamstring injury which leaves him a doubt for the William Hill Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen on May 27.
Ladbrokes Premiership: Partick v Rangers (tomorrow, 12.15pm, live on BT Sport 1)
PEDRO Caixinha has predicted a bright future for Rangers after presenting his summer wish list to the Ibrox board.
The Gers manager held a meeting with club chiefs on Thursday in which he outlined his vision for his Light Blues rebuilding job.
The Portuguese coach was trying to paint a rosier picture for the beleaguered Ibrox faithful after last week’s humiliating 5-1 drubbing by Celtic.
While he would not discuss how many players he thinks are required for Gers to challenge Brendan Rodgers’ rampant Hoops, he did confess a clear-out will be required.
And Caixinha – who has already revealed he will tell his players next week whether they are part of his plans for next season – insists he has been given assurances of financial backing from Dave King’s board.
Asked if he had been given an indication of his budget for next term, he replied: “Yesterday we held a meeting, a technical staff meeting with all the board and all the departments of the club. I can just tell you that I’m very confident about it.
“We presented our players plan and I’m really happy and confident about that because I know things are getting in that direction.
“It’s a realistic [list of names] in order to bring what we need. That makes me very happy about the future.
“If things continue like this, what we call the core of the team, we will be happy with it.
“We know what we can invest, we know what we are looking for and let me tell you that is not a small amount. But it is realistic with regards to the situation we are passing.
“Will it involve a big turnaround in players? Maybe. That’s why I’m taking about a new core.”
Rangers have been dealt a fresh injury blow with the news Emerson Hyndman could miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury.
Caixinha revealed the midfielder has not trained at all this week and will miss tomorrow’s trip to Partick Thistle.
However, fellow January loan signing Jon Toral hopes to make his return from rib trouble at Firhill. Lee Hodson (ankle), Lee Wallace (stomach), Rob Kiernan (calf) and Philippe Senderos (knee) are all still missing but long-term casualty Niko Kranjcar (knee) has resumed light training, while Caixinha hopes to have Jordan Rossiter (calf) back fit in time for next season.