McGregor on Celtic similarities to Scotland and Ryan Jack’s return

Given the importance of Celtic’s ever-influential captain to Steve Clarke’s side, it’s one of those facts you need to look up, verify, then verify again. The 29-year-old may have had to wait for his breakthrough but his impact on the national team is betrayed by the fact that he is now set to win his 50th cap five years after caretaker manager Malky Mackay gave him a chance against the Netherlands in Pittodrie .

That half-century included Euro 2020 and became the first male Scottish player to score at a major tournament in over two decades, albeit in a painful loss to Croatia that ended the team’s return to the big stage so quickly how it started. Another qualifying campaign, this time for Euro 2024, begins next Saturday against Cyprus, giving McGregor a chance to tick another box in his glittering career.

“Of course it will be a proud moment,” said the midfielder. “Every time you represent the national team, it’s a proud day and I’m very happy about my 50th cap.

“There is a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice that goes into it. So it’s going to be a nice little milestone if I get picked to play.

“Like any young footballer, you have to wait your turn. The group in front of me was made up of really good players and the coach trusted his team. You just have to be there, train as hard as you can and assert yourself at the right time.

“Sometimes you have to be patient, but I always wanted to get in. And once I got in, I really wanted to stay there and rack up as many gigs as possible.”

Victory in Group B of the Nations League should smooth Scotland’s qualifying path to 2024. Of course we should have known better: what came out was Spain, Norway with Erling Haaland and an up-and-coming Georgia side that boast one of the best players in the world this season in Napolis Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. The value of a single player who can win games on his own has been proven many times over in international football and McGregor knows Scotland faces a major challenge.

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“Once the draw was made it looked like a really tough group,” he admitted. “There are good personalities and there are no easy games in international football.

“Everyone is really fit and organized and of good quality. You can’t belittle anyone, every game is really important.

“We want to get the possible start against Cyprus and go from there. Once you get there [to a tournament] and have a taste and a taste of it, you want more.

“It was great to see what it was like for the country to be in a big tournament. I think everyone will agree that it’s been a really exciting summer and we want to go back there.

“We loved the experience of playing at this level and trying to keep up. We want to get back there and not be a one-tournament miracle.”

The international break puts a two-week hiatus on Celtic’s march towards another Premiership title and the prospect of a Treble. Scotland’s last appearance in which McGregor was not a part was back in November.

Clarke rarely has much time to work on the training ground, but one of the dangers of a quick move from national to international duty is caught off guard in that first second leg. However, McGregor says that while there are differences between Ange Postecoglou and Clarke’s respective styles, many of the basics remain the same.

“Different teams play different styles, but the core principles are pretty much the same,” he explained. “You have to be competitive and win duels. Do everything right, be proper on the ball, spend most of the game with the ball and when you don’t have it, be organized and compact.

“All of these principles are pretty much the same. There are one-on-one competitions all over the field and if you win more of them you can be successful.”

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The last time Scotland played Cyprus, McGregor teamed up with Rangers’ Ryan Jack in midfield, a combination that served Clarke well in the build-up to Euro 2020.

The squad is full of good players and whoever the manager chooses is trusted to do the job.

I’ve played with many different partners and I’ve always tried to find a good balance. It’s great to see Ryan back in there. Of course when we go away we’re all Scottish players and we all pull together.

“We all want to be successful. Playing with Ryan was good. We formed a nice partnership and our games complemented each other.” McGregor on Celtic similarities to Scotland and Ryan Jack’s return

Russell Falcon

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