Celtic captain Scott Brown may only feature in Champions League because of degenerative hip problem
SCOTT Brown’s degenerative hip problem may result in the Celtic captain being considered only for Champions League matches, his manager Neil Lennon has revealed.
Brown, who will miss Scotland’s World Cup qualifying double header because of the condition, needed an injection to play as Celtic beat Helsingborgs on Wednesday to qualify for the Champions League group stage.
The player might not be seen again until Celtic host Benfica on 19 September. And Lennon is concerned the 27-year-old could be lost to the club even for European games such is the extent of the hip problem.
“I don’t want him to miss Scotland games and he doesn’t either,” said Lennon. “But it might even come to the point where he has to miss European games if he has a reaction, is in too much pain to play, or we have to shut him down for a concerted period of time. The fact it is degenerative means he will eventually need a prolonged rest but we don’t want to do that so early in the season. So, if we can just nurse him along, rest him here and there, he might just cope with that.”
MEMORIES of Benfica’s last Champions League visit to Celtic Park are sure to remain vivid for Scott Brown. The Portuguese side, who will provide the opposition when Celtic open up their group stage campaign at home in little over a fortnight, left the field in November 2007 to a cacophony of boos. Brown, for his part, was simply relieved to be able to depart on two feet.
The midfielder, who had joined in a £4.4 million deal from Hibernian that summer, was the victim of an appalling assault five minutes from time. His halving brought a red-card for perpetrator Gilles Binya, who was subsequently banned for six matches. After a hush replaced celebrations of the impending 1-0 victory, Brown hauled himself up and continued to buzz around as manically as he had before. The then 22-year-old seemed indestructable. Five years on, the now Celtic captain appears vulnerable. So much so that his manager Neil Lennon has confessed the club will need to “nurse” an increasingly influential performer through a degenerative hip problem to have any hope of deploying him in the Group G fixtures against Barcelona, Spartak Moscow and the Lisbon side.
Brown’s presence in these encounters won’t be craved by supporters in the same way they will be desperate for latest arrivals, in the form of Nigerian defender Efe Ambrose and Venezuelan striker Miku, to be accommodated. Neither is the midfielder a matchwinner in the mould of James Forrest, Kris Commons, Gary Hooper or Georgios Samaras. Yet, there is a growing appreciation of his importance to his team and his re-invention as a seasoned campaigner and sensible performer. That is evidenced in no small part by the club’s willingness to go to extreme measures in order to ensure his chronic hip problem does not count him out.
The player has been, and will be it seems, patched up only for European encounters this season. Celtic have proved far more adept on the continent than domestically for reasons beyond that. Yet the considered and composed contributions of Brown, once dismissed as no more than bulldog terrier on speed, must be a factor. Lennon is in no doubt about Brown’s worth. The Irishman watched the midfelder assume the mantle demanded by the armband he sports as Helsingborgs were removed from Celtic’s path to the Champions League in convincing fashion on Wednesday night. Brown’s efforts were all the more commendable because he is suffering acutely with his hip complaint.
“He saw a specialist and, although the problem hasn’t deteriorated, he was in a lot of pain [on] Monday and Tuesday,” said the manager. “Under the circumstances he had a great game. He was a real driving force for the team. He’s really matured. A lot of the earlier stuff, the gallussness, has gone, and you have to say with his discipline on the field he’s really blossomed into his role of captain.”
Yet, it might mean too much to Brown to be the leader on the field. It was put to Lennon that he might be facing a Ledley King situation with the 27-year-old Scot. King, famously, practically never trained in his final years at Tottenham Hotspur because of a wrecked knee, and his game-time was rationed as a result. The Celtic manager said he didn’t think the Brown situation is “as serious as that scenario” but cautioned that it is up to his captain to prevent it becoming so.
“We have to manage him, maybe train him once or twice a week,” Lennon said. “He has to be honest with us, though. He has to say ‘I’m a bit stiff today’ or ‘I’m a bit sore’. He felt a bit sore on Tuesday after training on Monday, but he trained anyway when he should have been saying ‘Can I leave it today?’
“That makes it worse sometimes. But he likes to train and be out there burning off energy so we’re going to have to temper that now. You just hope this situation settles down eventually. The fact it’s degenerative means eventually he’ll need a prolonged rest, but we don’t want to do that so early in the season. So if we can just manage him along and nurse him, rest him here and there, he might cope with that.”
Brown’s participation in the Champions League may represent a risk for Celtic. The club were not prepared to take the risk of contesting the group stages without their most saleable midfield asset, however. It is believed that Victor Wanyama may have been amenable to a switch to the English Premier League before the window closed. The Kenyan midfielder is understood to have been the subject of a near £6m bid by Queens Park Rangers. His late goal in the 2-0 victory over Helsingborgs helped make certain that offer would not be entertained by the Scottish champions. The 21-year-old maintains his focus is only on what lies ahead for Celtic in Group G.
“I came here for one reason and the reason was to play in the Champions League,” Wanyama said. “I am looking forward to the Champions League and I don’t think about leaving just now. We are playing in the Champions League against the big clubs of Europe.”
The player said he just heard “from other people” about QPR’s interest and denied he was disappointed it was rebuffed, as has been reported in certain press outlets. “No, no. I am just happy and looking forward to the Champions League,” he stated in response to this suggestion. Lennon is believed to have let him know in no uncertain terms he would be retained for the duration of the season. “The manager is happy and I am happy here,” Wanyama said of reports he took him aside to tell him to forget about a transfer. “He has been talking to me but I was not even thinking of leaving. The only chance I wanted was to play in the Champions League.” Achieving that objective is something his captain Brown will require to take a chance on.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West