AFTER a Scottish Cup final in which he played a true captain’s role and bossed the midfield, Celtic captain Scott Brown’s first thought was for the man who is his boss.
Brown knows what an achievement winning the double was for manager Neil Lennon, and he is desperate to see the manager stay at Parkhead.
“It’s huge for him,” said Brown of the double, and he went on to describe why Lennon is such a talisman for players as well as fans.
“I think he is the reason why everyone comes to the club,” said Brown. “He has brought in young players and has not had the best budget but has shown what he can do with a tight budget. He’s brought in players like Victor Wanyama, Efe Ambrose and Kris Commons without spending a lot of money and they have played week in, week out for us.”
That spotting of talent is why Brown is worried that a club furth of Scotland will come for Lennon. He said: “Somebody eventually is going to take a chance on him. I think it is up to the club to try to keep him now. All of the players want him to stay next season because it is going to be a huge year for us.
“We have done really well this season, but now we want to kick on. We have three qualifiers for the Champions League and that is somewhere we want to do well again.”
As well as the manager, Brown says Celtic must keep Gary Hooper, the English striker who finished the season with a brace in the final to end 2012-2013 as the SPL’s top-scorer in all competitions, only Nicky Clark having scored more for Second Division champions Queen of the South.
Brown said: “He’s a great guy, especially around the changing rooms, plus what he does in the penalty box is phenomenal.Hopefully he is going to be our top-scorer again next season as well.
“People might leave and people might come in but the main thing, I think, is that we can keep the gaffer and we can keep Hoops as well. I think those are the priorities. Hoops showed today with the goals he scored and the way he played just how good a striker he is.”
Brown also paid tribute to another two colleagues, Fraser Forster and Anthony Stokes: “Hibs started well and had a great chance when Fraser made a great save. We went up the park and scored two minutes later. That settled our nerves as well.
“But if hadn’t been for big Fraser we’d have been 1-0 down. That’s why we’ve got a world-class goalie.
“Anthony Stokes had a great game as well. He was outstanding from start to finish and worked really hard.
“When he gets it and drives at people nobody knows what he’s going to do – I don’t think even Stokesy knows what he is going to do half the time and that’s a good thing.”
Brown was appreciative of his former club Hibs and particularly his good friend Kevin Thomson. He said: “Both teams tried to play football and at the end of the day, we deserved it.
“I spoke to Kevin a couple of days before the final. I am gutted for him but at the same time I am glad for us.
“He played well in the final and showed yet again what a good player he still is. He is such a good player and I am sure he will find a good team or maybe even stay there next season.”
Thomson also stepped in to calm things down at the game’s main flashpoint when Brown and Jorge Claros exchanged ‘pleasantries’ and were booked.
Brown explained: “He’s always done that – even when he played for Rangers. He used to keep me out of trouble at Hibs as well. At least somebody can pull me away!”
Brown’s final point was to say how much talk of Celtic underperforming “really annoys me” – although he wasn’t that polite.
“People can say what they want but we don’t really care,” said Brown. “We just go out week in, week out, and try to keep winning. We’ve won the league again, that’s two in a row and will go for three in a row now.
“We can also do the Treble and make the last eight of the Champions League. There’s always steps up.”