The Scottish Mail on Sunday


- By Fraser Mackie

NEIL LENNON has admitted he is wrestling with the dilemma of when — or if — to rest star man Callum McGregor for his own good.

The 26-year-old was singled out for praise from his manager following the outstandin­g midweek display in the 4-0 victory over Motherwell.

McGregor was certainly showing no ill-effects from another relentless campaign for club and country on what was his 48th appearance of the season.

Last year he played 69 games, 11 more than in 2017/18, and he is well on target to post another high attendance figure.

Today’s trip to League One side Clyde in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round presents a potential opportunit­y for McGregor to take a breather.

However, Lennon has so far been reluctant to make too many changes to his line-ups this season as he juggles domestic and European ambitions.

And he views McGregor’s qualities, which include a leadership feature, as central to the style of Celtic performanc­es he wants to see in every outing.

When asked if there was a limit to the amount of 60-plus game seasons McGregor can be asked to play, Lennon said: ‘There must be. He’s still young enough to be able to do it.

‘But there will be times when he might have to come off it a little bit and recover.

‘We tried to do that with one of the games — we left him out of the Estonia trip — but I think that’s the only one he has missed.

‘Going forward with the amount of big games coming up, it will be difficult to do because he’s so important for us.

‘The amount of games he plays and his fitness levels have improved immensely over the last couple of years.

‘He’s in great condition and he’s a great example to any young player of how to look after yourself profession­ally away from football and the attitude to have for training and playing.’

When asked if McGregor was a captain-in-waiting whenever Scott

Brown, 35 this summer, makes way as skipper, Lennon said: ‘I’d think so, yeah.

‘You don’t expect anything in football, but I’d say he’d be a leading contender. He looks like a natural successor.

‘The relationsh­ip he and Broony have on and off the pitch is telepathic now, almost.

‘A lot of the players look up to him, the coaches love him and his performanc­e on Wednesday was simply breathtaki­ng at times.

‘I’d compare him to Paul Lambert, maybe, as a midfielder in terms of consistenc­y and reliabilit­y.

‘He’s adding goals to his game and he’s just so clever. Whatever you ask him to do tactically, he understand­s it more or less straight away.

‘He’s such an important player for us, he’s playing out of his skin and been absolutely outstandin­g this season again.’ For back-to-form Leigh Griffiths, it’s a case of the more football the better right now.

The striker has scored four goals in six appearance­s since being trusted again by Lennon to start for Celtic.

Alongside Odsonne Edouard up front since the winter break, Griffiths is showing signs of regaining his old scoring sparkle.

He’s not back to peak form yet, however, so another run-out this afternoon is expected to bring the 29-year-old on again.

‘He did really work hard in Dubai and that benefited him a lot,’ explained Lennon. ‘I don’t think he’s the finished article for where he can get to.

‘Once he got his fitness up to a certain level, you could see he was starting to improve. Now he’s improving all the time.

‘He’s just got to continue in the same vein and keep his form and consistenc­y going. The more he plays, the better he’ll get.

If he stays injury-free as well, that’s important for him.

‘We will look to make changes for Clyde but not too many, so he’s absolutely in my thoughts.’

 ??  ?? LEADING LIGHT: Callum McGregor is in fantastic form for Celtic
LEADING LIGHT: Callum McGregor is in fantastic form for Celtic

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