Callum McGregor says Celtic have a 'target on their back' as skipper demands Hoops come back even stronger
Callum McGregor says champions Celtic now have a massive target on their backs.
But the driven skipper has thrown down the gauntlet to his team to come back even faster, hungrier and better next season to stay ahead of Scotland’s chasing pack.
Ange Postecoglou and his outstanding squad have taken the club back to the summit of the domestic game with their 52nd title triumph.
The Aussie and his squad celebrated the success at Tannadice on Wednesday night after securing the clinching point against Dundee United and were met by jubilant revellers back at Celtic Park with the party in full swing.
McGregor. will collect the trophy on Saturday in front of 60,000 on home soil after the final game against Motherwell.
The captain and his team will enjoy the moment but the work to go again starts the minute the ticker tape settles on the deck.
Celtic are now there to be shot at as top dogs and McGregor insists the mentality must be to return and do it again and again, with a tilt at the group stage of the Champions League also on the agenda.
He said: “The good thing about this is there is much more to come from this group of players.
“He (Postecoglou) is starting to build something but it is easy to chase people.
“When you’re chasing something, it is easy – you have that hunger, naturally, the desire.
“It’s now the opposite. OK. We’re champions. Brilliant. Now park it.
“We’ll enjoy it at the weekend but the minute we leave that building, we go away in the summer and come back, we have to be even hungrier.
"We have to be even fitter.
"There’s a target on your back and that’s where good players will show up and say, ‘Right, let’s go again’.That’s what we have to do.”
Postecoglou has already started planning and plotting for next season and the 28-year-old admits his influence is
invaluable to the squad.
McGregor said: “He’s come in and has an authority about him, the way he speaks.
“He’s got an identity and an understanding of the game. And he’s brilliant with people.
“He’s got that something special where, when he speaks, people listen.
“Then he believes in the players, he believes in his way of playing and thinking, and that just transfers on to the team.
“So when you have got a guy like that at the side who believes in you wholeheartedly, then it’s easy for the boys to buy into it because they know that, if anything goes wrong, he will take the responsibility.
“That’s what he’s always saying to us – ‘Don’t worry about mistakes. I’m asking you to play this way, so do everything you can and if it goes wrong, I’ll take the responsibility’.
“That really does help the players and he’s been fantastic.”
McGregor has been the gaffer’s on-field lieutenant, the one who has taken messages from the dressing room into matches and implemented them to set an example his side have followed superbly.
The captain was hurt after the title was lost at Tannadice 14 months ago but said on the spot Celtic would bounce back.
Sure enough, McGregor has been key in making that happen.
He added: “When you take a slap in the face – and in football you always get disappointments – you have to bounce back.
“That shows people what type of person you are, what type of character you have inside that makes you different and it’s trying to prove people wrong.
“When I stood down there and said what I said, I meant it.
"And this group of players have helped the club and me achieve that. I owe them a lot, the way they’ve come in and delivered from all over the world, settling so quickly.
“To produce the performances along with the manager’s vision and mindset for the club has been spectacular.”
McGregor insists it’s not all been plain sailing and pointed back to a day in Aberdeen last October that swung things around after a sticky start.
He said: “After six games we were sixth or something and it was big pressure.
“Even in those moments the team was coming together and all we needed was a moment for the group to say, ‘We believe. Let’s go’.
“And I think the one away at Aberdeen was a big moment.
“There were others but that was a big one to say we’re a good side who can go and play football and also win.
“Ever since that moment, you felt within the group there was a different mentality and that seems to have spurred them on.
“All the football we were playing was good but you have to win and marry that if you want to win things. Be strong. So that was a big turning point.
“We had good people already at the club – coaches, staff – who were so helpful when the new guys came in.
"You need the right people to come in with the right attitude and want to learn.
“I’ve spoken about the willingness of the Japanese boys to learn English, which makes the whole thing a lot easier.
“Everyone has to give everything to the cause and that’s what you can see within the guys.
“They’re always smiling and laughing but when we’re working, we’re serious. And that’s the sign of a good team.”