Lennon hopes Scott Brown will curb his enthusiasm in bid to avoid burnout
AS SCOTT Brown’s biggest admirer, Celtic manager Neil Lennon has always appreciated his captain’s willingness to go the extra mile for the sake of his team.
But as Brown battles against another degenerative injury in a bid to help the SPL title holders reach the group stage of the Champions League, Lennon has revealed plans to try and curb the enthusiasm of the 27-year-old midfielder and ensure he does not burn himself out.
When he received the statistical analysis of his team’s 2-1 win over HJK Helsinki at Celtic Park last Wednesday, Lennon was staggered by the numbers attached to Brown’s name.
“He put in a phenomenal performance and the physical stats alone were something I’d never seen before,” said Lennon. “He had run over 13 kilometres in the match. He covered so much ground and the intensity that he worked at was a very high standard. He’s not just jogging, at times he’s going flat out for a kilometre or so. He really is an incredible athlete but at the minute is just feeling it a bit with wear and tear.”
Having already undergone two ankle operations and hernia surgery in the past few seasons, Brown is now suffering from a hip problem which may also need specialist attention. He is hopeful of leading Celtic out tonight in the second leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie against HJK but will be nursed carefully by Lennon throughout the rest of the season. He was very sore after the game last Wednesday and that’s not like him,” added Lennon. “He came in on Friday and did the warm-up, but then decided he couldn’t train. When Scott tells me that, I know he’s in a lot of pain and discomfort. I’m hoping he’ll be okay but we’ll just need to manage him. He did have a hernia operation in June and came back okay from that, but this is a different sort of injury.
“He has had the scan and there is degeneration there, but it’s not on a scale where we have to shut him down. He doesn’t need surgery at the minute but maybe over a period of time he may do.
“I’m not a physio and I’m not a doctor so I can’t really say that’s going to be the case, but at the minute we’ll manage him week to week. He may have to play some games and miss others, and we’ll need to watch him in training as well to make sure he gets the proper rest between games so he doesn’t overdo it. He’s a big influence on and off the field. He has been a very consistent player for us now throughout my tenure as manager. He’s a big-game player. But right now we need to manage him, while he needs to be a bit more sensible himself in terms of cutting down his work.
“He doesn’t really need to do the physical side of training because he’s a natural athlete anyway – one of the best I’ve seen in the game, certainly at Celtic anyway. He always wants to train, be out there and set a good example, but maybe just at the minute for the short-term he needs to tone that down a little bit. We’ll talk to him about it as well as our physio Tim Williamson and hope that there is an improvement along the way.”
Improvement of Celtic’s away record in Europe, which has seen 25 defeats and just one victory from their last 33 matches, is the key for Lennon as he looks to guide his team into Friday’s Champions League play-off round draw. He is unconcerned by the sluggish nature of Celtic’s opening SPL win over Aberdeen on Saturday and remains optimistic his players can provide Scottish football with a major boost for the season ahead.
“We could all do with a shot in the arm,” he said. “If we get through this tie, then at the very least we have got Europa League football through until December which will be fantastic. It will be a big relief for everyone. But the next step if we win this tie is to try and get into the Champions League.
“We are just taking one step at a time. They were a little bit flat on Saturday but I totally understand that. The first game of the season is always a tricky one. But the players will get a huge benefit from the workout on Saturday.”
HJK Helsinki: Wallen, Sorsa, Lindstrom, Lahti, Sumusalo; Perovuo; Mannstrom, Vayrynen, Schuller, Savage; Phjanpalo.
Celtic: Forster, Matthews, Wanyama, Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Brown, Kayal, Ledley, Samaras; Commons; Hooper.
Referee: Robert Schorgenhofer (Austria).
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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