World Cup Qualifiers: Celtic's Callum McGregor facing another snub; he deserves better

By Euan Davidson

March 28, 2021

As Scotland’s World Cup Qualifiers continue momentum against Israel today, what of Celtic vice-captain Callum McGregor?

The Bhoys stalwart was left out of the starting XI against Austria by Steve Clarke. He would eventually feature, but given how regularly he linesup for Celtic you might’ve thought Clarke would show a little more faith. Clarke instead went with McTominay and McGinn in the middle, with the latter providing a dramatic finale.

Given Scotland’s defensive frailties, though, the ex-Killie boss might be tempted to return Scott McTominay to the back-3. Manchester United’s Scotland star has deputised in defence for Clarke’s men, although it’s not a universally popular subject [Sun].

The Tartan Army are blessed with an array of top midfield talent. Alongside McGinn, McTominay and McGregor, the likes of David Turnbull and Billy Gilmour can’t even get in the squad. Against Austria, Ryan Christie showed in flashes why he gets picked for Scotland. Neither Kenny McLean nor John Fleck made an impact on Thursday night.

So, yes, there’s immense competition for CalMac. Given his consistency and calming influence, though, Clarke surely has to fit him in somewhere against Israel later today.

Callum McGregor after the final whistle against Austria / (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Callum McGregor is the model of consistency, would boost Scotland’s World Cup Qualifiers hopes

With 27 caps for Scotland since 2017 [Transfermarkt], McGregor’s starring role for Celtic means he’s a no-brainer in terms of Scotland squad selection. Bhoys players past and present have made up much of the core of Clarke’s teams. David Marshall is the first-choice keeper, Kieran Tierney is a cert whenever he’s fit. Stuart Armstrong and Jack Hendry were also important against Austria.

From a tactical point of view, playing McGregor against Israel makes sense. When John McGinn was thrust forward into an advanced role, he ended up scoring a vital equaliser. Though traditionally he’s played more centrally, it’s a worth experiment to see if McGinn playing next to Christie as dual number 10s would be worth doing.

The duo of McGinn and Christie can surely bamboozle international defences. In defensive situations, McGinn can retreat, leaving Christie to run between the lines.

That leaves a vacancy, and it should absolutely be filled by McGregor.

In a torrid season for Celtic, at least McGregor has  shown immense consistency. With Scott Brown’s powers fading, McGregor has been first on the team-sheet for all of 20-21.

That kind of leadership and consistency and is important. Call us biased towards Celtic (because we are), but McGregor next to McTominay sounds like the makings of an industrious, technically-sound midfield base. CalMac’s 88% passing success and 1.2 interceptions per 90 [WhoScored?] show he’s capable of being the metronome for Steve Clarke tonight.

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