Celtic boss Neil Lennon backs captain Scott Brown and vows to build team around ‘great leader’

Neil Lennon has insisted Celtic captain Scott Brown stayed within the limits of acceptable behaviour in Sunday’s explosive Old Firm contest.

Scott Brown celebrates at full time as Celtic defeat Rangers 2-1 in the third Old Firm clash of the season. Picture: SNS Group

The veteran midfielder attracted criticism for the manner of his celebrations in front of the visiting Rangers support after leading his side to their 2-1 win at Celtic Park.

It sparked an angry response from several Rangers players as they clashed with Brown and some of his team-mates in ugly scenes following the final whistle which are under review by the Scottish FA’s compliance officer.

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Rangers winger Ryan Kent also faces retrospective action for lashing out at Brown when he prevented him from retrieving the ball to restart the match after James Forrest’s 86th-minute winner, which stretched Celtic’s lead at the top of the Premiership to 13 points with seven games left.

Brown was earlier involved in the incident which saw Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos sent off for the fifth time this season, the Colombian international reacting to a clip on the heels by swinging an arm into the face of the Celtic skipper.

Among those condemning Brown’s conduct was former Scotland captain Colin Hendry who described him as the “poorest example of a captain I’ve seen for quite a while”.

But Celtic interim manager Lennon has issued a robust defence of Brown and revealed his intention to build a new team around the 33-year-old if he remains in charge of the Scottish champions beyond the end of the season.

“Scott knows the psychology of these big games more than anybody, so you just leave him to it,” said Lennon. “If he walks a tight line, then so be it. Some of us did previously in these games.

“Scott knows the boundaries to work in and he played brilliantly again on Sunday. He is a great captain, a great leader and in games like that you really need him.”

Brown has won 17 major honours as a Celtic player since joining the club in 2007 and remains on course to lead them to a third consecutive domestic treble.

His future was uncertain earlier this season as he considered an offer to move to Australia but he signed a new contract in January which commits him to Celtic until the summer of 2021.

“I would absolutely build the team around him,” added Lennon. “He is so integral to this club and this dressing room, on and off the field. He’s still as fit as a fiddle.

“Two or three months ago, there was all this self-doubt, all this uncertainty about his future. You could see that in his performances as well.

“I am really glad for everyone he stayed at Celtic, but for him especially. He has settled down and is playing some great football at the minute.”