JOHN COLLINS has dismissed the prospect of a personality clash with Celtic captain Scott Brown, insisting the midfielder’s record £4.4 million move to the club in 2007 is proof there is no bad feeling between them.
Collins, who was formally unveiled as Celtic’s new assistant manager yesterday, was in charge of Hibs when Brown was sold for the landmark fee between two Scottish clubs.
Earlier that year, Brown had been among a delegation of players who visited Hibs chairman Rod Petrie’s house to register their unhappiness at Collins’ managerial methods.
That has inevitably led to speculation the appointment of Collins as new Celtic manager Ronny Deila’s right-hand man could upset Brown. But Collins is adamant his relationship with Brown was positive at Hibs and that he played a significant role in persuading then Celtic manager Gordon Strachan to sanction such a big fee for him.
“I think it’s important that we nail this one,” said Collins. “I never had any problems with Scott when I was Hibs manager.
“On the training pitch, he was brilliant for me. During every match, he was fantastic and that’s why he got his big move to Celtic.
“I actually played a little part in him coming here as Gordon asked me at the time: ‘What’s the boy Brown like?’ I gave Gordon a glowing reference and told him to make sure he didn’t miss out on Scott. I told him to pay whatever it would take to get him as he was a top, top player.
“I’m sure Scott knows that anyway. I enjoyed working with him. He’s my type of player. He trains properly and has developed into a leader and captain of Celtic.
“I always knew he had the attributes to be an international player and to play at the top level. He’s got great self-belief, he bosses games. When he was younger, he was maybe more box-to-box but now he’s more of a holding midfielder who runs the game behind the play. I knew he’d go on and have a great career. After the first week on the training pitch and the first matches at Hibs, you could see that.
“It was only a matter of time before he moved on from Hibs to a bigger club. It was no surprise. His career has just gone from strength to strength, he’s now a key Scotland international as well.
“It’s all a long time ago, what happened at Hibs. He’s a man now – 28 years old. It won’t be a problem at all. Ronny asked me if there were any problems between myself and Scott and I told him there were no problems whatsoever.”
Collins admits he and Deila face a stern challenge to build on the domestic success and European progress Celtic have enjoyed in recent years under Neil Lennon. But the 46-year-old is confident they can take it to another level.
“Let’s not make any mistake, the team have been doing very well under the previous manager and coaching staff,” said Collins. “The team deserves a lot of credit. It’s a hard act to follow, of course, but as managers and players the key word every day is ‘improvement’. Everyone has to try to improve – me, the manager, the players.
“That’s got to be the mindset, to try and get better results and performances. It’s going to be very difficult.
“As a manager or a coach, we’ve got to believe we can make every player better. Our job is to try to improve them all individually – maybe just a little bit here and there. If you can improve them all a little bit, inevitably you will get a better team performance. That’s why we came in. That’s why we go to training every day – you come for one reason only and that’s to get better. We’ll certainly do our best to do that.”