Callum McGregor urges new-look Celtic squad to create own Hampden history ahead of Premier Sports Cup semi-final

The Hoops face holders St Johnstone at Hampden Park on Saturday for a place in next month’s final

Callum McGregor reckons a Premier Sports Cup semi-final win over holders St Johnstone would be a fitting tribute to Celtic legend Bertie Auld, who passed away last weekend.

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As a mark of respect, the Parkhead outfit will have Auld’s famous No.10 sewn into the players shorts for their last four encounter against Saints.

Auld scored the only goal of the game as Celtic beat the Perth club 1-0 in the 1969 League Cup Final and Hoops captain McGregor is desperate to clinch a final appearance in his memory.

He said: “Bertie was an absolute giant of this football club.

“Everybody that speaks about him talks so highly in terms of the way he conducted himself, the way he was as a player and most importantly the way he was as a person.

“He always got on well with everybody, he always had a story to tell, he would always put a smile on your face and it’s a nice touch by the club to wear his number this weekend.

“It would be fitting if we can put in a performance and result to match what Bertie did for this club.

Celtic captain Callum McGregor, chief executive Michael Nicholson and manager Ange Postecoglou lay a wreath at Celtic Park on November 16, 2021 for legendary former player Bertie Auld who has died aged 83. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

“When I was a younger player coming through the academy, the older guys would always be around the stadium.

“They tried to educate the young players on what it felt like to play for Celtic, the responsibility that you had to perform and certain standards that you had to reach each week.

“I remember meeting Bertie one day in the players’ lounge, I wasn’t actually in the first-team squad at the time, I was still trying to break through and get my opportunity.

“But he knew exactly who I was, what stage of my career I was at and he gave me that little push you needed just to say ‘look you’re in here today but in a couple of months you better make sure you’re out on that pitch’ and that was exactly the type of man he was.

“He had no right to know who I was at the time but that just spoke volumes of him.”

McGregor has called on Ange Postecoglou’s new-look squad to create their own Hampden history and book a return trip to the national stadium next month.

He said: “We’re coming into the game full of confidence and we want to be in the final to give ourselves a chance of lifting the trophy - that’s got to be our objective.

“As a professional footballer you always want to win trophies, especially as a captain of this club that’s your dream to lift silverware.

“Winning a trophy at any stage would be massive for the group. We’ve got a lot of new players, a new manager, everybody has come together, so to try and cement that with a bit of success would emphasise our overall progression.

“We know we’re in for a tough game. St Johnstone are the holders of both cup competitions, that doesn’t happen by accident.

“The way they played last season, they were excellent. The players all know the system, the way they want to work and what the manager expects from them.

“We’ll be under no illusions it will be a really tough match, but we must approach it in the right manner with the right mentality and produce on the day.

“If you don’t do that in cup games then you’re out, so we know how important this fixture is.

“We can go and make our own history. The previous teams that I’ve played in were hugely successful at Hampden, so the boys that have been here a bit longer can use that experience and try to add that to the group.

“In general, Saturday is our first opportunity, as a new group, to go there, put on a good performance and move that step closer towards our first bit of success.

“We have to create our own history. We can’t rely on what’s happened before in the past.

“All we can draw on is the experiences we’ve got as a group, try to move forward and make these big games count. When opportunities like this come around you’ve got to take it.”

Celtic will be backed by another sell-out Hoops support on Saturday and McGregor concedes he isn’t worried by the side’s lack of big-game experience.

Callum McGregor with the treble treble sealing Scottish Cup in May 2019 that he believes showed Celtic's mettle with the late turnaround to defeat Hearts. (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group).

Postecoglou signed ten new players during the summer transfer window, the majority of whom will be making their first visit to the national stadium.

McGregor believes there are enough leaders in the team to guide the club to League Cup glory, highlight the vast experience of goalkeeper Joe Hart and full-back Josip Juranovic as examples.

He stated: “I’m pretty sure we’ll have the majority of the fans there and they’ll try to make it feel like a home game for us. We just need to impose our style into the game.

“We’re always speaking to the players. I think most weeks is a new experience for a lot of the guys, whether that be going away from home, going to different stadiums they might not know or facing different players.

“You’re always trying to drip-feed information that can help the players.

“I’m sure the boys will be chatting in the changing room just to try and prepare them for exactly what’s coming.

“Guys like Joe (Hart) and Josip (Juranovic) are both experienced players. Joe has been there and done the lot and Josip is doing really well internationally.

“They’re the type of guys who can help the younger ones as well in terms of having that big-game experience under their belt.

“As many leaders as you can get in your team makes these occasions become a bit easier when you’ve been there and done it before, so guys like that will have a huge impact this weekend.

“We just need to keep positive, keep listening to what the manager is asking us to do and continue to build as a group.”