Celtic captain Scott Brown opens up on Neil Lennon, Green Brigade banner and social media

The footballing paths of Scott Brown and Neil Lennon seem to have been forever entwined.

The careers of Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Scott Brown (left) have run hand-in-hand (Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

And the Celtic captain has no interest in picking apart those bonds now; even as the Green Brigaders among a disgruntled support have taken to displaying a crass banner to demand their manager be pulled apart from his club.

Brown, although an entirely different type of midfielder, was viewed as being able to fill the warrior role that Lennon had vacated when he made his £4.4m move to Parkhead from Hibernian in the summer of 2007. In the dying embers of Tony Mowbray’s bedevilled eight-month tenure in 2009-10, the Englishman was considered to have taken leave of his senses when appointing the ill-disciplined Brown as captain. His stint with the armband was expected to be short when Lennon replaced Mowbray within a month. Yet, the Irishman not only retained him in the role on stepping up from caretaker to assume the role permanently in the summer of 2010, he credited Brown’s driving displays in the final two months of that campaign with ensuring his graduation.

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It might be little surprise then that the 35-year-old, the sort of man you would always want beside you in the trenches, is willing to don the tin helmet and go into battle for his beleaguered manager. Yet, the situation isn’t so simplistic. If Brown were a character as self-absorbed as those within the Green Brigade, he might seek to keep his powder dry. For amidst the Scottish champions’ struggles in recent months, Lennon hasn’t spared Brown. He hauled him off after his needless concession of a penalty in the 2-2 draw away to Hibs at the weekend, and afterwards called him out over his “rush of blood”. And across the sequence of two wins in eight games that has drained Celtic followers of belief that their team can land the storied 10-in-a-row as Rangers have established an 11-point title advantage, Brown has played only three full 90 minutes - two of these the victories in that sequence.

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The veteran, though, can see beyond himself. That requires preaching unity and support regarding the doubts expressed over whether the Celtic squad are still playing for a manager only a Scottish Cup final away from completing a quadruple treble and helming a fifth straight domestic honour.

Strong defence of Lennon

“I think we’re all together. We’re 100 per cent behind the manager, as well, and I think the fans are with us,” he said. “We’ve only lost one game in the league this season. It’s not the worst start we’ve had in the world. But we need to make sure that it gets better. Everyone’s playing for the manager. The manager’s been fantastic the last three seasons. He’s had a great playing career here, he’s had great success the first time as manager and he’s had great success so far the second time. We need to keep making sure we tick these boxes, keep making history as well. It’s a fantastic bunch of lads here. But we need to start doing our talking on the field.”

That has to start with Thursday’s Europa League encounter away to Sparta Prague in order to prevent now paper thin qualification being officially ended. The banner bruhaha is hardly the ideal backdrop to that mission, but Brown won’t castigate its creators for the spoiled brat syndrome of which they are undoubtedly guilty. “I think everyone is welcome to their own opinion. Speaking to a lot of the fans out and about, they’re all behind us,” he said, somewhat optimistically. ‘Those are the fans we need to keep impressing and keep performing for, keep going out there and working extremely hard for.

‘Everyone’s got an opinion they can put on Twitter or put on banners. Social media now is extremely harmful to teams if you lose a couple of points. We’ve got to be bigger, got to be better and focus on ourselves. We don’t worry about what’s happening outside – we just work hard on the park. t’s Celtic. We expect success. We need to make sure that we do it on the park. Our fans have been fantastic over the 14 years that I’ve been here now. I’m sure once we get them back they’ll be supporting us.

“As soon as you drop one point, there is always someone out there who knows exactly what formation you need to play – there’s always a better formation. That’s what happens at big clubs. There are a lot of doubters. We need to make sure that we keep proving the doubters wrong. We need to keep coming back. We’re all strong enough to deal with the criticism, which is just part and parcel of football. It’s not always going to be nice and plain sailing. There are going to be ups and downs. We just focus on ourselves. You don’t read too much, don’t go on Instagram and Twitter too much. You just worry about what’s happening in the building – and make sure everything that happens in the building stays in the building. We work extremely hard and we’re always trying to get the performance right. We’ve done it before, had nine fantastic seasons and we’re in a Scottish Cup final, as well. We just need to make sure that, now we start focusing on the Europa League as well – and we start winning games.”

Brown rejected any sense that this could be considered his toughest time as captain, with his decade in the role having yielded 19 honours. “There have been a lot of tough times, a lot of great times,” he said. “We’re working to get those great times back extremely quickly.”

There can be no delay if the ties that bind Lennon to Celtic aren’t to be loosened permanently.

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