CELTIC captain Scott Brown believes agreeing new contracts with Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley would represent better January business for the Scottish champions than any new signings they make during the transfer window.
Samaras and Ledley are both out of contract at the end of this season, and Celtic manager Neil Lennon has confirmed they could be sold next month if the current impasse in negotiations over fresh deals is not resolved soon.
But Brown feels Greek striker Samaras and Welsh midfielder Ledley would both prefer to extend their time at Celtic and he remains hopeful they will stay. “It would be great for the club to keep these two lads,” said Brown. “I think Sami wants to be here and so does Joe. We need to wait and see what happens, and I don’t really like asking the lads about their personal contract situations. It’s whatever they feel is best, but we’d love to have them here.
“I think getting those two signed up would be as big as anything we could do in January, especially with the way football is just now with not a lot of money around to be spent by clubs. If we can get those two tied up, it would be huge for the club.”
Brown’s high opinion of his team-mates has not always been universally shared by the majority of Celtic supporters, especially in the case of Samaras, whose often unpredictable level of performance tends to divide opinion. “Perhaps some fans can’t see the bigger picture of what they bring to the team,” added Brown. “But I appreciate what both of them bring and so do the other lads in our dressing room. Sami brings a lot. People are always picking on him, about him not doing this or that, but look at what he did for us in the Champions League last season. He pretty much carried us through the campaign with five goals away from home.
“No-one has ever done that at Celtic before and he is such a big player for us. He holds the ball up and brings team-mates into play. If you are struggling and the boys are tired, he can take the ball for a run and give us a breather. Sami’s a flair player and there are games when we are responsible for not getting him into it. Look at Hearts last weekend. They were sitting in, yet he finds a bit of space, beats two men and put James Forrest away to score the second goal of the game.
“Sami has been here six years, and I’m sure he wants to stay. I know he wouldn’t miss the bad weather, but my banter makes up for it! I sit right next to him in the dressing room, so that must have made him happy for the last six years. He is the most relaxed guy in the world. So chilled out. Honestly, if you told the big man the world was coming to an end that night, he’d say ‘Well, it’s been a good day, eh?’ Seriously, he’s a great player and Joe’s the same. The thing about Joe is he scores goals in big games. He’s a big game player. The way he has been playing in the last four of five games has been ridiculously good.”
With a ten-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership, Celtic are already eyeing the possibility of maintaining their unbeaten record in the title race for the rest of the season. But Brown insists there is imminent danger to that status, against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park this afternoon and then away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Sunday.
“It’s going to be hard to go through a league season unbeaten,” said Brown. “We’re only halfway there and look at the next two games – they are hard matches.”
It is a challenge Brown is relishing, however, as he enjoys an injury-free campaign after the hip and groin problems which had dogged him in recent years. “I knew I just needed a hip operation to solve it last season but I didn’t want to have the surgery because I was enjoying playing in the big games,” he reflected. “We had a last-16 tie against Juventus in the Champions League, which was massive for the club, and that is why I just kept pushing it. Eventually, it cracked. The good days were fine, but the bad days were getting out of bed like my grandad. Those days are gone, though. I’m feeling fine.”