Callum McGregor recalls the fight to be a Celtic ball boy for famous European nights
You often see Celtic Academy graduates pop up in old photos as ball boys, or meeting senior players for the first time in some capacity; Callum McGregor is no different.
He’s been snapped in a few old photos [Glasgow Times], and it’s no surprise; Celtic youngsters are often relied upon to get the ball back to senior players in big games. How did that work, though? Was there a rota system? Did training performances matter?
Nope, it was just about making sure you were seen when it was roll call time.
In a chat with Celtic’s in-house media, Callum McGregor described the process, and how it inspired him to play for Celtic. McGregor said [Celtic FC]: “It’s the big European nights, you think Man United at home, Shakhtar Donetsk, 2-1… I was here, I was ball boy for these games.
“I remember, obviously the younger ones at the time would ball boy every weekend, at the home games. Then a Champions League night would come around, but there’d only be two spots behind the goals, two on each side. For the league games, they’d just shove another chair in.
“It was almost like a selection process, that you got picked to be a ball boy in the Champions League. Wee Brian Meehan would be picking the ball boys, you’d be trying to jump up so he could see you!
“It was amazing that I actually was ball boy for three or four of they big nights. Nakamura’s free kick, the whole place just erupted. I was sitting [at the] right side dugout.
“Because we were in the youth team at the time, you’re… watching it properly to see what is the level like, [you] want to get to this level one day. You just think to yourself “one day I want that to be me, I want to be the scorer of that goal”. Those are the kind of memories that ignite something inside you that makes you want to be a footballer at this club.”
Callum McGregor used these big Celtic experiences as inspiration
So, if you’ve wondered how it works, there you go.
It always seemed like an incentive thing, from the outside looking in. For example, if you’d played well in a game, or if you’d trained particularly well that week, you’d be rewarded with a ball boy spot at Paradise. As it turns out, that’s not the case.
But being so close to the action gave Callum McGregor the inspiration he needed. It’s certainly paid off, he’s now the captain. Not only does he wear the armband, he’s arguably Celtic’s most gifted technical player, who’d easily slot in at Premier League level, or in a top European league.
Luckily though, he’s ours. At Celtic for 20 years now, it’s great to hear McGregor reminiscing on the experiences that made him who he is today.
Because when he wears the jersey, you can see just how much it means to him. The guy lives and breathes Celtic.
Thank goodness, then, that he got some important ball boy gigs against Manchester United and the likes. Although you suspect he’d have made it anyway!