Steve Clarke believes Celtic stalwart is critical in Scotland's game plan

By Euan Davidson

March 26, 2022

Scotland manager Steve Clarke says Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour are crucial to his side’s game-plan.

McGregor, even in a crowded midfield, has repeatedly shown his technical excellent for both Celtic and Scotland. Billy Gilmour, the Chelsea youngster, is growing in stature, and playing alongside the Celtic captain is paying off for the Tartan Army.

Scotland may have drawn 1-1 against Poland, but there was plenty of encouragement. And even though McGregor was left out of the first Euro 2020 game, he has been pivotal ever since returning against England, when he kept Declan Rice out of the game.

Photo by Paul Ellis – Pool/Getty Images

For Scotland to play the kind of football Steve Clarke actually wants, McGregor is a vital presence. And Clarke went so far as to say if the ball isn’t coming to McGregor, there’s no point playing him.

Clarke said [Football Scotland]: “Billy and Callum [McGregor] are two really good footballers on the ball.

“We always try to play anyway, that’s what we have always tried to do.

“But when you have two players like that in midfield you have to give them the ball otherwise there’s no point in playing them.”

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How long will Scotland and Celtic star Callum McGregor remain underrated?

This strikes at a larger point, in terms of Scotland and Celtic star Callum McGregor.

The Hoops captain may finally be getting the kudos he deserves in the Green and White. But amongst the likes of McTominay, McGinn, even Gilmour, McGregor sometimes seems like an after-thought.

But just like he is for Celtic, McGregor can be the beating heart of the Scotland team. He makes the players around him better, finds opportunities for attacking players, and also has the work-rate to co-ordinate a defence. He’s a colossal player, at his best, and a very solid one at worst.

Photo by PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Steve Clarke saying that Scotland try to play football might generate some chuckles from cynics, but using players like McGregor to control the ball and set the tempo will get you just that result.

Gilmour, a Premier League player, and still so young, is obvious headline fodder.

Callum McGregor can be a fantastic guiding influence for the ex-Rangers youth player, though. For Scotland, too, the Celtic and Chelsea midfielders finding a rhythm could a wonderful thing, a catalyst for a squad that’s surprisingly technically gifted.

Read more: Frank McAvennie on the psychological blow Celtic can deliver rivals