CALLUM MCGREGOR’S memories of playing against Steven Gerrard have been rekindled by this afternoon’s Old Firm derby.
The Celtic midfielder was out on loan at Notts County in 2013 when the English League Cup draw sent him to Merseyside for a tie against a Liverpool team skippered by Gerrard, and managed by Brendan Rodgers.
“It was a while ago, but I remember it,” he said.“It was a good experience, to go to play against Liverpool at Anfield.
“We were underdogs but played reasonably well.
“It’s always good to test yourself against the best players in the world, and Stevie G was definitely up there at the time.
“He was excellent that night, and Liverpool won 4-2 after extra-time (forced with a comeback from 2-0 down). It was a good experience.
“Did I get his shirt after the game? No! I didn’t even get the chance to speak to him because he was just focused on his own team.
“To be honest, having taken them to extra-time, everyone was a wee bit gutted in the changing-room at the end that we hadn’t got through.
“But going there as a lesser team, it was a free game for us. And we saw taking them to extra-time as a small achievement in itself.”
Five years on, Gerrard is the Rangers manager and McGregor not only a key member of the Celtic side, but also an established Scotland internationalists.
“Sometimes football has a funny way of throwing these things up,” said McGregor of the reunion.
“I’ve taken my game to a new level since then.
“I was young, just starting out on my career and enjoying my football at Notts County.
“I scored a lot of goals just playing free, attacking football.
“I came back to Celtic and had to learn the other side of the game.
“I needed to be much more disciplined and, since the manager has come in, he has really taken the club and the players to a new level, myself included.
“I’m thankful for the experience and the platform he’s given me.”
The young Celt acknowledged there has been an even greater transition for Gerrard.
McGregor has been impressed by the impact he has already had on Rangers in his short time as a manager.
“When you watch them now, you can tell they have a real team spirit and have good quality all around the pitch,” he said.
“They have signed a lot of players and have almost two for each position now.
“That competition for places drives the standard up. I’ve always said that has been important here.
“Rangers have come through the Euro qualification process, too.
“It’s tough to do, so you have to give them credit for negotiating those games and they have had a decent start in the league too.”