ANGE POSTECOGLOU has poured cold water on hopes that Callum McGregor’s facial injury may not be as bad as had been feared, saying there is no timeframe set for his return to first-team action.

The Celtic captain was helped from the field during Saturday’s win over Alloa after a clash of heads with Wasps midfielder Adam King, but Postecoglou raised hopes that his skipper may recover sooner than expected after exchanging messages with McGregor on Monday.

He has reiterated however the seriousness of the 28-year-old’s condition, saying the focus at the moment is simply to get him back to his old self, rather than worrying about when he may take to the field again.

“It’s still a serious injury, I’m not really sure why people think it’s positive,” Postecoglou said. “I did say he looks better, but it’s still a significant injury.

“We’ve just got to make sure we help him with his recovery now. We’ll get guided by the doctors that are looking after him.

“The first thing for me is that Callum starts to feel like his normal self as soon as possible and we will help him through that process.

“In terms of his recovery and when he gets to play again, we’ll take our time with that and make sure that both the doctors, and more particularly him, are comfortable with that.

“Whenever you are dealing with head injuries you have to make sure you look after the person before you look after the player.

“Everyone knows what Callum is like, he’s as brave as they come and nobody will be trying harder than him to get back, but our role right now is not to worry about Callum the player, but make sure that Callum the person is ok and goes through his recovery process.”

Postecoglou still doesn’t know if his captain will require surgery on the injury, as he awaits guidance from medical staff.

“We’ll leave that to the doctors and let them guide us through that process,” he said.

“That’s not something we’re going to navigate ourselves, we’ll follow whatever instructions we’re given or the procedures and protocols that are given to us and help Callum through that process.

“That will sort of take care of itself in terms of his recovery.”

The absence of McGregor is a huge blow, admits Postecgolou, particularly with a visit to Tynecastle to face Hearts this evening and fixtures against Dundee United and Rangers to follow.

But he has faith the other leaders within his squad will stand up and be counted in Gorgie this evening.

“He is a big miss, because he is such an influential figure within the group, firstly because he’s a fantastic footballer, but also because he’s our leader,” he said.

“There isn’t a club in the world that wouldn’t miss their leader, and we’ll certainly miss him.

“But we’ve been challenged all year with different kinds of things, but one thing we’ve done is make sure whenever adversity has hit, we’ve found ways to navigate through it and be resilient and not make excuses.

“This will be no different. We’ll need people to step up, but they’ll do that, because we’ve done that all year in different areas.

“Whether that’s in terms of leadership or trying to fill the gap in terms of what he provides us as a footballer, then that’s what we need to do.

“That won’t discount the fact that we’ll still miss him, because he’s the captain of this football club.”

Liel Abada should be fit for this evening’s match, though Yosuke Ideguchi will be out for some time with the injury he picked up against Alloa at the weekend.

Even with an extensive list of absentees though, Postecoglou is much happier with where his squad is than he was when Celtic lost out at Tynecastle on the opening day of the season.

“It’s too obvious to say that we’ve improved, but the starting point was pretty low for us,” he said.

“At that time in particular we still had players who were coming in, some we hadn’t signed yet who would become key members of our team, others were still on the way out. It was a chaotic time.

“I still think we did ok in that game. We lost narrowly, we had a goal disallowed, we gave a good account of ourselves even though the result wasn’t what we wanted.

“We lost the game and it wasn’t a great way to start the season for us, but it’s pretty obvious to see we’ve improved since then, but we had to.

“We’re a different team now to what we were then, and in the last three or four months we’ve shown a level of performance that’s been pretty consistent, and that’s been matched by the results.

“What we want to do is continue that upwards trajectory and hopefully keep improving, and have a stronger second half of the season that we did in the first half.

“We’ve played a few tough European fixtures this year in pretty hot environments and the boys have handled it well.

“We’re looking forward to it, the players want that. It’s much better that than playing in front of 50 people.

“That’s why I was keen and the club was keen to wait for the crowds to get back in before we started playing again, because whether it is home or away, what you want is people there. That’s what makes the contest meaningful.

“It’s a great stadium, they’ve got a very passionate crowd, and it’s exactly the circumstances you want to be involved in.

“I’m sure the boys are looking forward to it.”