BRENDAN Rodgers just the other day described Callum McGregor as the most under-rated player he had ever worked with but that can’t be true.

Surely, there isn’t any supporter of Celtic, Scotland or whoever for that matter, who can’t see what a fine footballer the 25-year-old has become over the last two seasons.

McGregor was always going to be the next big thing. He joined the club while at primary school and even then, coaches felt that this was a lad who just might have something a bit more than his team-mates.

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It took a while for the Celtic fans to see what Neil Lennon, Ronny Deila and then Brendan Rodgers could see. For some reason, the local lads always seem to have to prove themselves a lot more than a foreign signing.

McGregor, however, now is one of the top men in that dressing room.

The opposition on Saturday wasn’t great, with all respect to Shamrock Rovers who had played a game the night before, but in a 3-5-2, the attacking midfielder showed he’s started this pre-season as he left off the last one, scoring goals – he got two – his passing, movement and just being a danger makes him a real weapon for Celtic.

It was only a year ago when Gordon Strachan didn’t think this talent was good enough to make the Scotland squads.

“When I came back in pre-season, all I wanted was to keep going, keep working hard, producing more of the same – and see where that takes me,” said McGregor who takes modesty to a new level. “I’m delighted to be in the team and doing well, getting goals.

“With these qualifiers, it’s massively important to be mentally sharp. It defines your season, how you perform in these games, even this early on. It’s important to be fit, to be sharp and hopefully get through the process.”

Celtic are up against it. Every club similar to the Glasgow outfit are. What Celtic have is a bit of know-how which might well be the difference. 

“You have to draw off the experience of previous campaigns,” said McGregor. “And, when I look at the boys we have, we look a lot more stable a unit now. Hopefully we’ll be all right when we got into the process.

“The squad is strong. It’s a team game and, in modern football, there are 60 games a season. You need a strong bench, need a large group. We need the boys not in the staring XI to be still at it, pushing the boys in the team. 

“We know how good our squad is – and we know how beneficial it is to have that strength in depth.  You’ve seen it over the last few seasons, how we’ve needed everybody. It will be exactly the same again this year.”

And, of course, this is game one of eight before Celtic even get to the group stage draw.

“That’s just what it is. You can moan about it, say it’s not fair, whatever,” said McGregor. “But that’s what you have to do, if you’re going to get to the group stages.”