REPLACING the quality that departed from the Celtic playing squad last summer was a difficult enough task for Neil Lennon, but compensating for the leadership qualities that left the building along with Kieran Tierney, Mikael Lustig and Dedryck Boyata was quite another.

Luckily for the Celtic manager, he had men within his dressing room who were ready and willing to step into that void as the lieutenants to captain Scott Brown, and no one has risen to that challenge more than Callum McGregor.

The midfielder’s qualities as a player have never been in question, but he feels he is now bringing more to the team than just his footballing ability, comfortable in his skin as a senior player just a few weeks short of his 27th birthday and with his 300th appearance for Celtic now in sight.

He recognises that it is now his turn, and indeed, his responsibility, to set the standard for the younger players coming through just as those who went before did for him.

"Some of the senior boys moved on last summer and everyone was looking at Broony,” McGregor said.

"He had lost a couple of older heads and people probably felt he needed a bit of a hand. Guys like Mika were senior figures in the dressing-room and I looked at them over the previous five years.

"There is also the vocal side of things and with the more games you play and the more you achieve, you feel you are well respected in the dressing room. Younger boys will look at who is performing every week and is trying to set the standards.

"When I was breaking in, I would look at Broony and Mika and think, 'That's what I need to do to have a successful career'."

"I feel as I have stepped into that role quite well over the last few years as I picked up more experience.

"I have always been driven to win since I was younger and when you start achieving a lot for Celtic, you take on that extra responsibility in the dressing-room.

"Senior boys need to set the right standards and markers for those coming through.”

McGregor has come a long way since taking his fledgling steps in the senior set-up at Celtic under Ronny Deila, but he recalls how he perhaps set a marker for what was to come by bagging a crucial debut goal against KR Reykjavik in Champions League qualifying.

"That game in Iceland and that goal seems such a long time ago now,” he said.

"It was my first start and the first time I'd scored competitively for Celtic, so it's vivid in my memory.

"It was six years ago but I remember the game, I remember starting and I remember thinking I was being subbed before my goal.

"Ronny played me off one of the sides and there were guys like Kris Commons and Derk Boerrigter for those positions.

"After about 70-odd minutes in Iceland that day I remember seeing Derk warm up on the side. I thought to myself, 'I've done okay...nothing brilliant but nothing bad'.

"I expected my number to go up on the board but he took off Leigh Griffiths instead. Ronny switched me to the right wing and five minutes later, I cut inside and scored. That felt like I'd vindicated his decision and it worked out well that night.

"Since then, I feel like I have gone from strength to strength but it all started in Iceland when Ronny gave me that chance.

"I will always be grateful to him for showing that faith in me.”

McGregor feels that his old boss perhaps doesn’t get the credit he deserves for blooding youngsters in the way that he did, effectively launching the Celtic careers of the likes of himself and Kieran Tierney.

"When [Ronny] took over, he could have gone in a safe direction but he liked to develop young players,” he said.

"He always wanted to give you a chance and you have to give him credit for that.

"Ronny was willing to throw younger boys like myself and KT in and let us play. Without that, I might not be sitting here today playing for Celtic.

"He set me on my way to becoming a Celtic first-team player when I was at a real crossroads in my career.

"Ronny helped me achieve a dream and I will always be thankful to him.”