Champions League return set to reinvigorate Celtic captain Callum McGregor after 63 games in 2021/22 campaign
THE demands that have been placed on Celtic and Scotland midfielder Callum McGregor by his club and country over the past few years have raised concerns about the long-term impact on his physical and mental well-being .
Still, McGregor has still had limited downtime since lifting the Cinch Premiership trophy in a crowded Parkhead following a final league game against Motherwell last month.
He was the only national team outfield player to feature in every minute of the four matches of the international break which ended in an emphatic 4-1 victory over Armenia in a League of Nations game. Nations in Yerevan on Tuesday evening.
The 29-year-old’s exit at Republican Vazgen Sargsyan Stadium in midweek was his 63rd competitive appearance of the 2021/22 campaign.
Can the Scot, who was one of 15 players named in a FIFPro report into the dangers of match congestion and travel burden last month, continue to perform at such a high level on such a weekly without suffering serious injury or even burnout? ?
Tom Boyd, the former Celtic and Scotland defender, believes McGregor will benefit greatly from the extended break he will get, due to the Premiership winners going straight to the League of Nations group stages. champions next season, this summer.
But Boyd is confident his compatriot and all of his Parkhead team-mates will return to pre-season training at Lennoxtown next month fully refreshed and eager to get back to playing, however much time they have to relax.
Speaking in Kelvingrove Park yesterday morning as he handed over a check for £7,000 from the Celtic Foundation on the taxi ride to Troon for the children, he predicted they would be energized by the prospect of taking part in the first competition of European clubs against the cream of the continent. season.
“I went there myself,” he said. “Not as much as Callum right now, but a few years ago you literally had a week off before you started again.
“But, look, these guys are professionals and they would rather play football in there than vacation with their wives somewhere. No, let’s go and start the pre-season again.
“Want some free time to recharge your batteries? Speaking from personal experience? Nope! I know that in modern football some people play an exceptional number of games and don’t rest, they need a few weeks off. But if there’s a first team game played, you know you’d want to play there.
“I know they have that team rotation now and you need it with the current intensity. The game has changed slightly with high pressing, really high pressing, which has come into play now. Teams from years past didn’t do that.
“But look, you prefer to play every day of the week. You prefer to play than to practice. So yes, bring it. I’m sure the players will be abuzz and eagerly awaiting the start of the season.
“There are a lot of things to do before the Champions League, but everyone is really looking forward to it. It’s the first time for a long time.”
Boyd, who attends Celtic home and away games as a supporter these days, is certainly excited about his former club taking on Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid for the first time. in five years next season.
The former left-back led his boyhood heroes to their first domestic treble in 32 years in 2001, then helped them qualify for the Champions League for the first time the following season with a memorable aggregate victory over the giants Dutch from Ajax in qualifying.
But he missed matches against Juventus, Porto and Rosenborg afterwards.
“I brought us there but failed to play in the group stages,” he said. “There were some good players in my path, the great Bobo (Balde), Joos (Valgaeren) and Johan (Mjallby) among others. But I managed to get us there and it was a fantastic experience.
Boyd, who is now a Celtic ambassador and works as a co-commentator for Celtic TV, has tasted the atmosphere of big Champions League nights at Parkhead on many occasions in the past and is looking forward to the team d ‘Ange Postecoglou be involved in the competition once. Again.
“We’ve had some absolutely wonderful times in the Champions League and it’s great to be here,” he said. “Some of the best players in the world have said playing at Celtic Park is their best experience. So we want to see that again, we want to see ourselves being able to compete in the Champions League. Yeah, let’s go.
There is, however, a downside to Celtic going straight into the group stages for lifelong supporter Boyd.
“Now that I’m not playing and I don’t have to worry about having two weeks off, I want Celtic to be in qualifying so I can see them play earlier,” he said. . “It’s not great for the nerves, but they’re great.
“But now we are here and we are guaranteed to have Champions League football. Celtic Park is a perfect stage for European football, for Champions League nights, and we want to see some great nights again. I’m buzzing about it.
Tom Boyd is convinced that Callum McGregor and all of his Celtic team-mates will be exactly the same.