Celtic will adapt without fans - Callum McGregor responds to Hamilton's Easton

Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor
Callum McGregor, speaking at Celtic's kit launch, says the team can deal with an empty stadium

Callum McGregor has played down suggestions from Hamilton Academical's Brian Easton that Celtic could suffer without the backing of their fans.

The two sides are destined to start their Scottish Premiership season at Celtic Park on 2 August.

But the reigning champions' stadium will be empty because of Covid-19 pandemic social distancing rules.

"It is another challenge, but this group of players are very good at adapting to challenges," McGregor said.

"We all know the atmosphere in games can help you, but ultimately your determination and your desire to win will still be there."

The Scottish government has not only confirmed that the top-flight will kick-off on 1 August but that friendlies can start immediately behind closed doors.

Scotland midfielder McGregor thinks those bounce games will help players get used to the absence of fans but admits that, even when he avidly watches the currently televised Premier League games, he does so with crowd sound effects switched on.

"I think it's going to be pretty difficult to get a feeling for it until the games actually happen and you're playing competitively," he said.

"It's inevitable, when the big crowds come in, it whets your appetite and you give that 5-10% extra without even thinking about it. It's up to the players to motivate themselves to that extra level."

'Empty stands disadvantage to Celtic and Rangers'

Celtic are chasing an unprecedented 10th Scottish title in a row, while Accies will arrive having been saved from a late season relegation battle with Hearts thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the season being called early.

Captain Easton is happy Accies will miss out on the usual unfurling of the league flag in front of a capacity crowd and hopes they can improve on their last visit, when they lost to a last-minute goal.

"You go to Celtic Park or Ibrox and you are already up against it when you have 50,000 or 60,000 fans that are able to give the home team a lift," he said. "It is a big disadvantage for us.

"It is still going to be really tough, but it is much more of a disadvantage to Celtic and Rangers than it will be for us."

Easton, who will miss at least the first couple of months of the new campaign as he recovers from an ankle operation, hopes Accies can capitalise and once again overcome the odds to survive relegation. "We always seem to find a way," he points out.

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