BIRTHDAY Bhoy Callum McGregor, who is 29 today, has urged the nation to rally round under-fire Scotland manager Steve Clarke and his players in Armenia this evening.

The Scots are desperate to get back on the UEFA Nations League track after the embarrassing 3-0 loss to the Republic of Ireland in Dublin at the weekend.

Shock waves were sent reverberating through the international system following the second crucial defeat in 10 days after the 3-1 Hampden semi-final play-off flop against Ukraine that dynamited any hopes of World Cup Finals participation in Qatar in November and December.

Clarke’s side were deservedly booed off the Aviva Stadium pitch by the raging Tartan Army after a dismal display against Stephen Kenny’s Irish side that had last won a competitive home game three years previously – against the minnows of Gibraltar.

IN THE THICK OF THE ACTION…Callum McGregor battles for possession against a Ukraine opponent.

The manager has admitted nothing less than a victory in Yerevan in this evening’s five o’clock kick-off will now be acceptable.

McGregor, who led Celtic to the Premiership title and the Premier Sports League Cup in his first campaign as captain after succeeding the departing Scott Brown, said: “The success of being at the last Euro tournament has given everyone the belief and expectation that we should be getting there on a regular basis.

“That’s the type of team we want to be. We want to be achieving things as a group.

“As players, we want to achieve things individually, too, so we have to meet the standards we have set ourselves in the last 18 months or so.

“It’s important we don’t forget the good work that has happened in that period, that we don’t lose belief in ourselves — and also that the nation don’t lose belief in us, either. So Armenia is important because we have to get back on track quickly.

DANGERMAN…Callum McGregor puts pressure on the Ukraine goal, but, alas, it was to no avail.

“There has been a lot of reflecting on Saturday’s game and looking at the negatives from it. Ultimately, we have to brush ourselves down and go again because this is a big game.

“We have to go away with a positive result and be ready to come back in September and make sure it’s a successful campaign.

“The Tartan Army travel everywhere in their numbers and we really disappointed them against Ireland on Saturday. So, it’s important we finish this little block of games strongly and try and give them a little bit of positivity to take away over the summer.”

McGregor, speaking to the Daily Mail, added: “I think the manager has done a great job. Look at where the national team was when he came in.

RALLYING CALL…Callum McGregor encourages the Scots, including Grant Hanley and Che Adams.

“He has made a huge impact. He has got us to a tournament for the first time in 23 years.

“We then got to a play-off semi-final, which was the closest we have come to a World Cup for many, many years, as well. So you have to look at the success and the building process he has put in place.

“By no means are we the finished article or we think that we have arrived. There is a lot of work to be done, but the players and staff all understand that.

“There is a lot of good work being done and to jump on the bandwagon too early is the wrong thing to do.

“We have to stick with the manager. He has done a lot right, a lot of good things for the country and this group of players, so it is important now that we trust him and stand behind him.”


About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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