He has consistently stated the need for the team to continue to move forward and use these closing months to build for next season. Yet, with Scott Brown having decided to end 14 years at Celtic by moving to Aberdeen as a player-coach next season, Kennedy seems willing to be fuzzy on his previous focuses. A straight replacement for the 35-year-old exists in the current Celtic squad in the shape of Ismaila Soro. Indeed, the Ivorian impressed across the turn of the year in then being handed the anchor role in preference to Brown.
If setting aside sentiment, it would seem sensible for Soro to be given as much exposure as possible across the remaining two months of the season. Not least because the 22-year-old has only started 12 Celtic games. However, Kennedy bristled at the suggestion that, if building for the future starting with the Scottish Cup tie against Falkirk, Brown’s participation naturally had to be placed under question.
“You also can’t disrespect Scott Brown because he’s still captain of this club and he’s given a huge part of his life to it,” said the Celtic interim manager. “He has made the decision to move. We would have loved him to stay longer here because we feel he has more to offer, but he wants a new challenge and we fully respect that.
“But it’s not about dismissing Scott Brown for the future, there’s a transition happening here. We know he is going to leave at the end of the season, and we know what Soro can do. He has come in and shown some of that, and he’s a young player who is still developing. And Scott Brown will help him with that. So it’s not a case of me now dismissing Scott Brown and making sure Soro’s up to speed. It is making the right for each game that feels right for the team and will get us results. Scott is that type that wouldn’t expect anything else. We’ll give him the respect he deserves and if the right decision is to play Soro, we will play Soro, and if the right decision is to play Scott Brown, we’ll do that.
“But, for Soro long-term, the plan was always that at some point he would push Scott Brown and try to make that position his own. We’ve seen that for periods this season when Scott’s not played, Soro has come in and done well. Again, we will review that as we move along, and in the up-and-coming games.”
Celtic seem in a constant state of flux as players and personnel make way – or stating their intentions to do so – while the club appear to be closing in on Eddie Howe as next permanent manager. However, Kennedy maintains that the turnover need not be unsettling for the squad. “It’s not particularly an issue,” he said. “For the players it’s about playing football. Going out playing the game, training everyday. That’s what gives them comfort. They don’t need to stress too much about what’s going on at boardroom level. They are focused on making themselves better and improving performances so that has been easy for me to manage.”