Towards the end of last season, there were fears that the incredible workload Callum McGregor has taken on over a decade or so now was finally starting to catch up with him. That, at the age of 31, Celtic’s bionic man was starting to show one or two signs of wear and tear.

A bout of Achilles tendonitis in late February ruled him out for around a month at a critical stage of the season, but despite ongoing discomfort, he returned to lead his side to a league and cup double before starting all three of Scotland’s matches in the European Championships.

The disappointing end to that campaign for the national team, coupled with his niggling injury issue, has naturally sparked some debate about McGregor’s international future, and whether he can really go on giving his best for club and country at this point in his career.

It was shortly after turning 31 that Scott Brown, McGregor’s predecessor as Celtic captain, stepped away from Scotland duty, though he did return again for a spell before finally bringing his 11 years of national service to an end in February 2018.

He knows first-hand then just how much of a wrench it can be to refuse the call to represent the country, and given McGregor’s professionalism and dedication to his conditioning, he feels that there is more to come from his former teammate in a Scotland jersey.

He will, Brown suspects, want a shot at qualifying for the World Cup, and when he saw golden oldies like Luka Modric still strutting his stuff at the Euros at the age of 38, he will think there is no reason why he too can’t continue to perform at the highest level on all fronts for a few more years yet.

“I was waiting for that question, I knew it was coming!” Brown said.

“Do you think he should retire or no’ – what’s he going to do??

“It is hard. Callum is a totally different player to what I was and a different personality as well. I knew that my body was probably not going to make 50-60 games for the next couple of seasons. I kept having to pull out of games and training and stuff.

“I think Callum is probably in a bit of a different situation. He has had a wee niggle with his Achilles obviously, but he has managed to fight through that, and the rest will do him good as well, because he has played a lot a lot of football.

“He is one that will keep going and keep driving through and he sets the standards throughout the whole dressing room and the whole stadium to be fair, he is the driving force behind that whole club, him and Brendan (Rodgers).

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“You don’t want to burn him out. We don’t want to lose him. At the same time, he will see a World Cup and he will want to play obviously and show we can get to it. It’s a hard one…but it is on him. That’s the best advice I can give – it’s on you wee man!

“He will probably play until he is 37 or 38, not a problem. He looks after himself extremely well in terms of what he eats and how he sleeps and how he trains. He is a robot that way. He will make sure he continues to be in tip top condition.

“If anyone is to go that far it will be Callum. He will be looking at the Ronaldos and other people, Pepe, Modric, who are still playing Champions League level and looking after themselves. He will be thinking, if they can do it, why can I not do that?”

That sense of duty will then, Brown feels, keep McGregor at the heart of the Scotland midfield for some time to come. As well as a fear that drives all footballers – that his career may be starting to wind down.

“It’s probably why I went back,” he said.

“You were watching the games in the house thinking, ‘ach, I should really be there, I can still play but it might kill me later on. I can end up helping out in this campaign’.

“When I had the opportunity to go back and went down to England, I jumped in with two feet. I enjoyed being part of the Scotland team and squad and meeting up with the lads. Some people did not enjoy that. I enjoy being around people. I am a people person.

“For me it was huge to go along. It was obviously sad when I retired for a second time and then when I retired from playing as well, you end up thinking, 'where am I going to go, what am I going to do?'

“You sit around the house going, ‘for f***’s sake Scott, I have two months ‘til the end of the season, maybe I should have just stayed at Aberdeen.' I ended up being a chauffeur for the kids.

"Then I got the opportunity with Fleetwood and you jump in with two feet there as well. And you start enjoying it as well. It is the next best thing to playing football.”

But not quite the same, as much as Brown is enjoying his new role as manager of Ayr United.

Given the drive that the current Celtic skipper has to push himself, Brown now understands it may be up to his own managers to step in and ensure that McGregor’s workload is being managed correctly.

“You always want to play for your country,” he said.

“I just felt that every time I went away with Scotland I came back and I was slack for the next two or three games because all the other lads got a break and got a rest and got some recovery, and I was turning out and turning out.

“Eventually, four or five games down the line, I started coming back again and got a few wee extra breaks. But it was hard to take.

“I am sure Steve (Clarke) might not want to use him all the time or might want to use him. Same with Brendan, he will want him to be there as the driving force. It is a hard one for Callum but at the same time you want the best players on the pitch, and Cal’s the best player.

“Brendan will always look after him. That is part and parcel of being a good manager. He knows when he is tired, and he knows when he needs an extra day off.

“Cal is one of these lads who wants to train all the time. Even when he is given time off, he will be in the house running. He is not getting time off. He is continually driving and setting new standards and wanting to make sure he is the fittest player to come back for pre-season.

“Hopefully, when he comes back and he is flying in training and flying in games, it just takes him through another season.”