Celtic captain Callum McGregor admits his manager’s half-time critique will continue to sting despite their comeback win against St Johnstone.
Brendan Rodgers labelled his side’s first-half performance at McDiarmid Park “soft” and claimed it left him angrier than he had ever been as a manager with his side trailing to Diallang Jaiyesimi’s scrambled goal from a corner.
McGregor led the comeback by drilling home the equaliser midway through the second half and Matt O’Riley brilliantly finished a slick move to put Celtic ahead.
There was still time for a late twist and Saints substitute Jay Turner-Cooke came close before James Forrest made it 3-1 in stoppage-time to seal Celtic’s 14th consecutive win at McDiarmid Park.
McGregor said: “That’s the one thing when you’re a good football team and people try to look for areas to exploit then the last thing as a professional footballer you want to be called is soft.
“That hurts the group. We can’t have too many moments like that because you’ll see teams will try to play on it.
“We’ve got to be better and stronger in those moments especially when we are defending the box.
“As a professional you never want to be called soft. That will sit with the players in three, four, five days’ time because nobody likes to get a sore one off the manager. We have to take it on the chin and we deserved it.
“But we don’t want to be doom and gloom. We rectified it and when you’re a team that sets high standards and drop below it then it’s the manager’s job to tell you then the players job to fix it.”
Rodgers hailed his skipper’s influence after the game.
“It was retro Callum McGregor from my first time here,” the Celtic boss said. “He used to score great goals like that, left foot, right foot.
“He’s not up there so much because he’s orchestrating the game from behind, but he was the real catalyst.
“I was watching him in the second half and that was a Celtic captain’s performance, dragging your team through the game with intensity and quality.”
McGregor realised the magnitude of the situation at half-time with Celtic in danger of dropping more points following the previous weekend’s home draw with Motherwell.
“In this period we have so many games you’ve got to keep winning,” the midfielder said. “It doesn’t matter how, you’ve got to keep winning.
“Hopefully when we get to the end of the season we look back on this 45 minutes as an important one. We had the strength of character to go out and rectify it.”
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