HAMPDEN Park is supposed to be a neutral venue for the BetFred Cup semi-finals but Callum McGregor has come to regard it as one of his happiest hunting grounds.

Aside from one major exception, the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers in April 2016, where he missed a penalty as Celtic crashed out in the shoot-out, this 24-year-old midfielder tends to be on the right side of the score line on the occasions when he graces the national stadium.

Okay, so he also made it onto the pitch when Ross County beat Celtic 3-1 at exactly this stage just three months previous to that, but what transpired was hardly his fault considering he had helped Gary Mackay-Steven give Celtic an early lead only to be sacrificed after 11 minutes when Efe Ambrose’s slip conceded a penalty and saw Ronny Deila’s side reduced to ten men.

Read more: Brendan Rodgers: Technically and tactically my Celtic players are good enough - they just need the nerve now

The trauma of that memory has long since been exorcised, not least last season, when McGregor steered in the fine opener which set Celtic on course for a 2-0 win against their bitter rivals at this stage, then rounded off the first invincible treble in the club’s history here against Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final. But his affinity with the national stadium stretches back far longer than that – all the way to his days as part of Celtic’s all-conquering youth team, for whom he played his part in a hat-trick of SFA youth cup wins from 2009 to 2011, including a hat-trick in a 7-0 win against Queen of the South in the 2010 showpiece.

“It never gets old, coming here,” said McGregor. “The first time I ever came to watch a game here was a Scotland game, the 3-2 defeat to Spain. I was with my brother and my pal, we were jumping about like loonies when Scotland scored.

“The first time I ever played here, was a Youth Cup final against Rangers I think, we won 2-1 in extra time. Then we played Queen of the South the following year and won 7-0. I scored a hat-trick that night, and Dylan McGeouch [now of Hibs] got two then got taken off. He was raging because he was wanting a hat-trick too! But there have been a few good memories – starting against Rangers and scoring is probably the best. Then there was the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen, doing the Treble. And when you play somewhere and have good memories, I think it always gives you that extra little bit of confidence. You think ‘I can score goals here’ or win things here. It gives you a nice feeling going into the game.”

Read more: Brendan Rodgers unprepared to compromise in Europe despite Celtic's Munich mauling​

What else will McGregor be feeling come Saturday lunchtime? Well perhaps a little bit jaded following the trip to Bavaria during the week, though undoubtedly less so than the 14 men who actually made it onto the Allianz Arena pitch for what was a rather a sobering occasion. And perhaps inspired to ensure that Celtic’s unbeaten run stretches to an incredible 60 domestic matches, considering how close Hibs ran them as recently as the start of this month.

We had just ten minutes of regulation time to play when McGregor’s second of the day cancelled out a John McGinn double. Considering the two men spent the next fortnight eye-balling each other on a Scotland bench, neither making it onto the pitch as the nation’s fates hung in the balance, it is rather ironic that they should find themselves facing each at the national stadium again tomorrow.

“Obviously I think both of us would have loved to get on,” said McGregor. “But things like that happen in football, you just take it on the chin and move on. We know he’s a big player for them, he has been for a couple of seasons, and he’s certainly one we’ll need to watch.

Listen: Herald Sport podcast: Who will reach the Betfred Cup final?

“It’s a great unbeaten record and we want to see how far we can go,” he added. “There have been a few tight games in there and you think maybe this is the day we lose it but the strength and mentality of the boys comes through. We don’t know when we’re beaten and we’ve scored late goals to which boosts confidence to boost the run. You look at the game we played against Hibs recently when they went 2-1 up with 13 minutes to go and pretty much everyone looked at each other in the stadium and thought this could be the one. But we got back in the game and scored and might even have had a penalty as well.”

Considering his importance on that occasion, it is worth noting of course that first McGregor needs to nail down his first team place at Celtic. But his skillset seems hand picked for this match. “It would have been nice if we could have played the Sunday, had that extra day [to recover],” he said. “It takes its toll, flights there and back, the mental preparation for the game. But you are a professional footballer, so you have to be able to play two or three games a week and be OK. And the adrenaline gets you through, especially in semi-finals and finals at Hampden. We’ll be ready.”

Download and listen to the latest Herald Sport podcast on iTunes and PodBean. This week special guest Tam McManus joins the Herald Sport team to preview the Betfred Cup semi-finals.