sport news Callum McGregor insists: 'I've given Gerrard a scare once before... now I aim ...

Callum McGregor got a kick out of going toe-to-toe with Steven Gerrard in the heat of an Anfield cup tie. 

Five years on, the Celtic midfielder is feeling similarly motivated by the Liverpool legend's appointment as Rangers manager.

Celtic have coasted through the Old Firm fixture since Brendan Rodgers' arrival two years ago, but McGregor has seen enough to suggest the arrival of the former England captain has significantly raised the bar at Ibrox.

Callum McGregor is confident of getting the better of Steven Gerrard on Sunday

Callum McGregor is confident of getting the better of Steven Gerrard on Sunday

And, very early in his career, the midfielder was given a glimpse of Gerrard's commitment to the highest standards.  

On loan at Notts County and starting only his fifth senior match, McGregor played a key role in a pulsating six-goal League Cup tie that was settled only after extra-time.

'I remember that night well,' said McGregor. 'We were underdogs but we played reasonably well and it was a good experience to go and play against Liverpool at Anfield.

'It's always good to test yourself against the best players in the world and Stevie G was definitely up there at the time. He was excellent that night and Liverpool won 4-2 after extra-time.' 

With Gerrard pulling the strings behind Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, it was always a tall order for the League One side to progress but the performance of the young Scot occupying an attacking midfield role was good enough to catch the eye of the then Liverpool manager.

Under Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, McGregor has taken on a key role within the team

Under Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, McGregor has taken on a key role within the team

Brendan Rodgers has made McGregor pivotal in his dominant Celtic team and the 25-year-old will be crucial to the champions' game plan as they tackle the first derby of the season this lunchtime.

The Rodgers v Gerrard narrative may prevail but McGregor is excited by the prospect of developing his own sub-plot after introducing himself to the England captain all those years ago.

'Sometimes football has a funny way of throwing these things up. It seems to go round in circles,' said McGregor. 'When the manager came in I had a wee chat with him and (assistant) Chris Davies.

'They felt I had done well in that game, which was nice to hear - that he was aware of something I had done at another club.

'I've taken my game to a new level since then. Back then I was young, just starting out on my career and enjoying my football at Notts County.

'I scored a lot of goals just playing free, attacking football. I came back and had to learn the other side of the game. I needed to be much more disciplined.' 

Gerrard's Ibrox impact has not gone unnoticed in the east end and McGregor admits he is excited at going up against a Rangers team he believes is showing genuine signs of renaissance.

'When you watch them now you can tell they have a real team spirit and have good quality all around the pitch,' he continued.

'They have signed a lot of players, they almost have two for each position now. That competition for places drives the standard up, I've always said that has been important here at Celtic.

'They have had a decent start in the league and they have come through Europa League qualification, which is tough to do. You have to give them credit for negotiating those games.' 

Scott Brown has received praise from both Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard

Scott Brown has received praise from both Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard

On accepting the job of managing Celtic in 2016, Rodgers made a point of favourably comparing his new club captain

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