Scott Brown can feel the hand of history on his shoulder as well as Aberdeen’s breath on Celtic’s neck.
Only twice Celtic have won five league titles in succession – Jock Stein’s celebrated nine-in-a-row side of the 1960s and 70s and also the early 1900s team, who won six successive titles under Willie Maley.
It is why he is especially desperate to avoid surrendering the current league championship to the Pittodrie side, who are just a point behind the leaders having played a game more.
Brown does not wish to be remembered for being the skipper at the helm when they blew such a rare chance to make history all over again. Nor does he wish to contemplate the thought of almost five years’ worth of work being so brutally undone.
Brown was speaking while taking part in a Ladbrokes “Football Star in a Rally Car” event, where Premiership players are being invited to participate in a head-to-head challenge around Knockhill’s hairpin bends – he was up against team-mate Ryan Christie.
That Brown probably views such a hair-raising activity near where he was brought up in Hill of Beath – “I can’t say, I will get arrested,” he joked, when asked for memories of the track from his youth – as a release from the tense battle with Aberdeen underlines how tight it is at the top.
He suspects Aberdeen aren’t going to go away, unlike last season when they eventually trailed Celtic by 17 points. Brown challenged Celtic to “grow a set” and prove their mettle – just as he was doing by strapping himself into a rally car.
“Aberdeen are a great football club,” he said. “We know what they can do, they have been doing it all the way through the season. We have slipped up a couple of times and so have they. It has kept the season interesting. They have kept on our heels, and they are still on our heels now.
“Everyone in the dressing room has got to believe that [we can see it through],” he added. “If we don’t believe that then that five-in-a-row and all the work we have done to get here will vanish. All the work we have done to get to this situation will have been for nothing. Now we need to grow a set, and kick on now until the end of the season.”
Brown stressed there is no need to warn more recently signed Celtic players about the significance of this year’s title win – and the fact it could form part of an unprecedented ten-in-a-row.
“I think everyone now knows,” he said, when asked if he has to remind anyone. “Every time a new signing comes into the changing room they are told! It could be Peter [Lawwell], the manager or just the other boys.
“There are not a lot of teams who have achieved five-in-a-row. I think there’s only been two Celtic sides before us who have managed it. So we could go down in history for that.”
Brown might also go down in history as being captain when Celtic failed to get over the line, meaning Aberdeen would become the first non-Old Firm side to win the league in 30 years.
“I definitely don’t want that, of course I don’t,” he said. “There’s a lot of responsibility on people’s shoulders. Now is when you need to be brave, when you need to take the chances that present themselves. We’re all well aware what’s at stake.”
While league points won’t be the issue, Brown is also conscious of a forthcoming game which many view as potentially very damaging to manager Ronny Deila’s prospects – next month’s Scottish Cup semi-final with Rangers.
Indeed, the skipper himself brought it up. “We really need to kick on now,” he said. “As everyone is saying, we’ve got a big game to look forward to and so now is the time to start making your mark.”
The “big game” he is referring to is of course only the second clash with their Old Firm rivals since the end of the 2011-12 season.
“Everyone’s been on the text already, it’s been lovely,” he acknowledged. “Of course the thought of the game excites me. It will keep everyone on their toes, everyone will be fighting for places.
“We have a big squad, so the gaffer will use it if need be. We’ve got a lot of big games coming up, big occasions. But that’s what you want.”
Brown knows it is unlikely they will have won the league by then – but they might have lost it.
“It’s six weeks away,” he cautioned. “It’s obviously a huge game for us, but we’ve got so many other games before that one. Of course, Rangers are the same. I think both teams will just be focusing on what’s immediately ahead – Rangers winning their league and us ours.”