CALLUM McGregor watched on as his captain paraded a jersey to commemorate his 500th appearance for Celtic ahead of the midweek game against Motherwell, and thought that one day, that could well be him.

After all, the 25-year-old ticked over the 200-appearance mark this week, and after committing his future to the club yesterday by penning a contract extension that will see him remain at Celtic until 2023, he has time on his side.

What he also has going for him is the fact that he plays in almost every game. The playmaker has emerged as a key figure for both club and country with a happy knack of avoiding injury and suspension, racking up 41 appearances all in so far this season. By December.

All told, he has played at least some part in 71 of Celtic’s last 72 matches, with the only game he missed in that time the 1-0 loss to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in February, when he was an unused substitute. Not a bad run, but there is no suggestion of McGregor letting up. On the contrary, he is looking forward to getting his teeth into the three remaining fixtures before the winter break as he not only continues his long quest towards Brown’s milestone appearance mark, but also his relentless pursuit of silverware.

McGregor said: “The winter break is to come, isn’t it? I’ll enjoy myself in Dubai.

“No, it’s a lot of games and there have been periods when I’ve maybe needed to play one or two extra because of injuries elsewhere that mean you can’t come out.

“As a player, you want to play as many games as you can. And 41 games [this season] shows you are a big part of the team. That’s what you want to be as a footballer, helping the team as much as you can.

“I have felt okay. I feel as fit as I have ever been. It’s been great. I have enjoyed it. When you’re playing well, you don’t want to come out – you just want to keep going. We have three big games to go and then we get a wee break in January.

“You see Broony getting to 500 games and you don’t do that for a club like this unless you have the right mentality, hunger and talent.

“He has shown all of that and it’s something for me to aspire to. It’s certainly something I am looking at.”

In the shorter term, McGregor and Celtic have plenty to contend with as the concertina of teams at the top of the Premiership means that their dominance is coming under greater scrutiny than it has for some time.

Not that Celtic are wilting from the challenge. The win over Motherwell in midweek put them back on top of the pile with a game in hand, and with matches against Dundee, Aberdeen and Rangers to come before the shutdown, they could be basking in the warmth of a more comfortable advantage by the time they jet off for some winter sun.

The defeat to Hibernian on Sunday though reminded McGregor and his teammates that Celtic might not have it all their own way over the coming games, but he points to their response to setbacks as a key factor in why they will prevail over course and distance.

“We have three big games coming up and we might be a bit short on numbers,” he said. “But the sign of a good team is showing character in those periods of adversity.

“You always bounce back. We had a poor result at the weekend but bounced back from it on Wednesday night to go top of the league of the game. It’s about the character of the boys, the squad and the manager.

“It has been a strength of the group to respond when there have been tough times over the past couple of years. The boys have stuck together and come through the other end. We know how big a period this is for the club and we want to get positive results to take us into the New Year.

“It looks tight in terms of one team being top and then another. It’s about us just trying to stay mentally strong. If we show that mental fitness over the next three games, we could be in a really good place come January.

“It’s important that we put our foot to the floor in the next ten days and get through them.”

Celtic may have to negotiate those games without a recognised striker after Odsonne Edouard limped off with an abductor strain on Wednesday night, and if the Frenchman is ruled out, McGregor would be happy to step into one of the few positions he has yet to play for the club.

“I’ll put my hat in the ring and see what [the manager] does,” he laughed.

“We are a bit light on strikers but I am sure we will come up with something that is good enough to get us through. I’d just go and run about, that’s it!

“I think we’re okay. Odsonne obviously went off [on Wednesday] night and it looks like it could be a struggle. But I think we are getting boys back. Ryan [Christie] and Tom [Rogic] could be back.

“Our squad is strong and you saw that against Motherwell with the young boys coming on. They gave us two goals and that is good for the future of the club.”