Celtic captain Scott Brown yesterday revealed that he has no interest in playing in England’s Premier League and that he expects manager Neil Lennon to still be at the helm for next season’s tilt at the Champions League.
Lennon has been linked with the vacancy at Norwich City and, while a move to Carrow Road would almost certainly increase his current salary, Brown struggles to see any other appeal for such a switch.
The Scotland star has a strong bond with the Irishman and is unsurprised by the speculation surrounding him whenever another struggling top-flight club down south dispenses with their manager. He does not, though, anticipate losing Lennon just yet.
“It just shows you what a good manager he is,” he said. “Somebody might make him an offer but the gaffer is huge at this club and he loves it here.
“He enjoys coming into training every day and he loves the facilities we have. We enjoy it every day. The manager’s record is incredible. Everyone can say it is because Rangers are not in the top league but I think the results would be the exact same even if they were there because he puts that drive and winning mentality into the squad, the same as he had as a player.
“Even when we won the league, we were a wee bit disappointed after drawing against Ross County and knew we could do better. [Before the 2-0 away win over Dundee United on Saturday] He said: ‘Go and play and show what you can do’.
“He makes you believe you are a better player, that you can get the ball and create. It’s good to have a manager who can speak to you. Of course, there are times when you need to rant and rave, but he does more talking than that. I think this club means so much to the manager that he will stay.”
Celtic’s fiscal supremacy has rendered the Premiership a one-horse race and Lennon is aware that he will receive little credit in England for claiming a third successive title. Europe, though, is a different matter. The manager’s reputation was greatly enhanced last season when Celtic famously beat Barcelona and reached the last 16 of the Champions League.
Brown believes the prospect of competing in the most lucrative club competition of all – which is likely to be denied the likes of Norwich for the foreseeable future – can keep Lennon at Parkhead for the time being.
The Scotland captain also understands that the standard of opposition is higher in England but has no desire to experience playing there.
“[Lennon] wants to go again in the Champions League,” he said. “I’m sure he’ll be looking at players and what we can improve upon to get better and get back into the group stages. Everyone says the English Premier League is the best league in the world and there has only been one team in Scotland which has been winning the title in the past three years.
“But people underestimate how big a club we are. Some come here and see it as a stepping stone, but look at Georgios Samaras.
“He came here six or seven years ago and has enjoyed every single minute. He’s going to the World Cup yet again this summer and that shows we can bring players and keep them.”
Brown concedes that there is considerably more strength in depth (not to mention financial reward) down south but argues that money is not the be-all and end-all for Lennon or himself. “If anyone got an offer to go elsewhere and get more money while they have a current job which they enjoy, it’s a hard decision to make,” he said. “It’s down to the individual and the gaffer will find that, but everyone here hopes he will stay. I just love the club. It’s a great place to be and winning trophies and playing Champions League is a big thing for me.
“I enjoy that and going to England doesn’t really bother me, going to fight and scrap for a touch of the ball every week when, here, we have 65 or 70 per cent of possession every week and can enjoy our game.“
Brown can understand what team-mate Leigh Griffiths, another former Hibs player, is currently going through as he faces investigation and condemnation from every angle following the striker’s regrettable chants about Hearts and their former midfielder Rudi Skacel ahead of the most recent Edinburgh derby. Life as a Celtic player means that every public pronouncement is dissected and, as Griffiths has discovered, even recorded.
“Expectation on you is ridiculous and everyone thinks they know you,” he said. “People come up and say: ‘Broony how you doing?’ You never got that at Hibs. You got a few folk coming up and slapping you on the head!
“Celtic is a great place to be and people expect you to win every week. It’s not easy.”
Brown has made life easier for himself by continuing to live in the capital since his £4.4 million move from Easter Road in 2007. “I’ve not been [out] in Glasgow since I signed for Celtic,” he said.
• Brown was speaking at Celtic Park as the Premiership champions announced that they would be freezing their season-ticket prices for the second consecutive year.