Glasgow Football 

Football / Celtic FC

CALLUM McGregor insists that taking criticism on board is a fundamental to becoming a better player and person following Celtic’s below-par performance in Thursday’s night’s stalemate with FK Suduva.

Despite taking an early lead and bossing possession in Lithuania, the Hoops could only manage a 1-1 draw in the first-leg of the UEFA Europa League play-off clash. After the game, Brendan Rodgers revealed his disappointment in the display and expressed particular frustration at how his team defended Suduva’s equaliser.

And McGregor is adamant that everyone in the dressing room is determined to correct these collective failings and build belief.

“You have to take it on the chin,” he said ahead of Sunday’s game. “We know the goals we’ve conceded lately haven’t been good enough, and as a professional and a player you have to take that criticism.

“I’ve always had a good relationship with the players, coaching staff and the manager, and you accept criticism when it’s due, and that’s how we get better.

“We’re always open with each other in the group, going back to the manager and then coming to us. It’s important we have that communication, accept criticism, move on from it and become a better player and person for it. That’s part of football – you’re going to get criticised from times and it’s about how you bounce back and deal with it.

“In football, your defence is your foundation you build most things on and there’s been a lot of changes with people being injured. You want a settled back-four or back-three – whatever the manager chooses to play – and that helps the stability of the team,” continued the 25-year-old.

“It’s just about getting back to that, getting back to the confidence and taking pride in our defending as a team, pressing from the front and the strikers and midfielders doing our bit, and obviously if it gets to the defenders they can clear it up.

“It’s very much a team effort and the boys are working hard. We’re going back to the pressing drills in training to set the solid foundations so when we go into the games, we feel comfortable.

“We’ve been so successful and when you go through a sticky patch the confidence wavers a bit, but there are good players in there and we’ve shown time and time again that we can come back from bad results and tough situations, such as going down to 10 men and winning games.

“It’s about trying to get the confidence levels back, along with the free-flowing football and the defensive solidity, which allows us to hurt teams.”

Although the Hoops have not been at their best in recent weeks and have also exited the UEFA Champions League, McGregor knows how quickly momentum can shift in football.

And the midfelder and his colleagues are eager to bounce back to the form that has seen them achieve unprecedented domestic success over the past two years, starting with Sunday’s league clash against Hamilton Accies.

“Obviously the stats don’t lie but off the back of two unbelievable seasons, and it was almost fantasy football at times we were playing, it can’t always be the standard,” said the Scotland internationalist.

“We all try to get there but realistically you’re going to get a dip in performance or results. We know how hard it is to get to that level, and the boys are always working hard to try and achieve that.

“The players are desperate to get back to winning ways and get through the tie next week and then in the space of seven days, we could be having a different conversation. We’ve got the away goal and we’re going back to Celtic Park next week and hopefully all being well, we’ll get through the tie and reach the group stages.

“Seven days is a long time in football and you win on Sunday and then get through to the Europa League on Thursday and everyone is having a different conversation. It’s important for everyone to stay positive and the players in there are certainly positive and the manager will be as well that we can turn it around.

“It’s a big week and the players know that, along with the manager. The players are desperate to put it right and starting from Sunday, we’ll be doing everything we can to get a positive result and take that into Thursday and from that confidence will build.”