Most people who have witnessed Callum McGregor’s performances this season have noticed a decline in the 27-year-old’s effectiveness. Had that been restricted to club football thenit could have attributed to Celtic’s substandard recruitment last year plus the spate of injuries and Covid-related absences as the reigning champions imploded.

When the same drop in standards is noticeable in a national team in the ascendancy, however, that argument breaks down: the fact is that McGregor appears to be exhausted. Since the start of 2017/18 the playmaker has made 246 appearances for club and country, averaging over 60 games per year.

Given a workload which Stakhanovites would have balked at, it’s hardly surprising that McGregor, arguably the most consistently excellent player in Scotland between 2016-20, is now looking enervated. Former Rangers and Scotland midfielder Stuart McCall, though, believes that the energy generated by representing his country at the European Championships (as McCall did in 1992 and 1996) can help him rediscover his optimum form.


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“The thing you need to remember is that the adrenaline rush you get from playing in a major finals is like nothing else you’ll experience,” he said. “When the players walk out at Hampden for the opening game - even though there will be just 12,000 people there - it’ll feel like a full house for them because they’ve been used to playing in front of empty grounds for over a year now.

“We saw that in the way the teams reacted to the play-off games in Scotland and England as well as the FA Cup and Champions League finals. The crowds may have been decimated but the atmosphere still felt fantastic so there’s no doubt that the adrenaline will get the players through it.

“And it also might be just enough to help Callum find his very best form at exactly the right time.”

McCall concedes that McGregor hasn’t been at his best but remains confident that he can turn things round.

“He’s probably a bit fatigued after a campaign where he hasn’t been tip-top: he won’t have lost his confidence but he isn’t bursting with it either,” he said. “At the moment he’s probably a six or a seven out of ten whereas before he was always an eight or a nine.

“You can sometimes suffer from burnout, especially when you’re a player who wants to play all the time. Sometimes that decision has to be taken out of your hands but, like everyone else in the Scotland squad, he’s desperate to play in his first ever major tournament.”