Scott Brown backs Neil Lennon to secure Celtic job with Old Firm win
While there is a widespread perception Lennon may have to wrap up another domestic treble if he is to be confirmed as Brendan Rodgers’ successor beyond the summer, Celtic captain Brown insists the interim manager could be just 90 minutes away from securing the job.
Victory in Sunday’s Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park would put the Scottish champions 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Premiership with just seven games of the campaign remaining, making all but certain of landing an eighth consecutive league title.
“It’s the biggest game of our season, the next game,” said Brown who has been enthused by the manner in which Lennon has handled the task since replacing Rodgers last month.
“To win against Rangers at Parkhead, I think the gaffer would be made. It would be fantastic for him, us and the support.
“We still have to win it in our style and play attractive football and we are able to do that. We played well against Dundee in our last game but couldn’t get the ball in the net. Hopefully we’ll manage to do it on Sunday.
“The manager has been fantastic since he came back to the club. He got chucked in at the deep end right away but he has dealt with his situation really well.
“He speaks really well in front of the lads, training has been the exact same as it was with Brendan and the lads have set the tone and know it is a fresh challenge. Everyone knows there is a new manager and everyone will get a chance, so they have all upped their game.
“He was brave to take over from Brendan because we had won seven trophies out of seven under the previous manager. But if there is any man who is going to fill his shoes, it is Neil. He believes in himself and he has been brilliant.
“Quite a few of the players were here when he was manager first time around, so they know him already, while some of the other guys know him from his time at Hibs. But he has been great about the place with everyone.
“He is calmer than he was the last time he was manager. He is more chilled. He has been away and learned a lot. He was also thrown in at the deep end the last time when Tony Mowbray got the sack. He dealt with that fine and then he got the contract after that. He is more mellowed now and he’s enjoying every single moment of it.”
It has been a long time since Celtic have gone into an Old Firm fixture with a score to settle but that is very much part of the motivation for Brown and his team-mates this weekend.
They were undoubtedly stung by both the result and their own performance when they lost 1-0 at Ibrox in December, their first defeat in 13 Old Firm fixtures. “It’s still in the back of everyone’s head,” admitted Brown. “The lads are still talking about how we didn’t play on the day.
“We had a few injuries, young Mikey Johnston played up front when he prefers to play out wide. He’s not exactly a target man but did as well as he could. It was one of those days when we didn’t have a lot of bodies but now we are starting to get players back from injury, especially the longer term ones, so the squad looks good again.
“It was just one game against Rangers in two and a half great years under Brendan. We know we let ourselves down at Ibrox but one game doesn’t make a season.
“We have bounced back really well since going to Dubai in the winter break. We’re ten points clear now but we need to make sure we perform on Sunday. It’s a nice cushion but there’s still a lot of points to be played for.
“Rangers will come after us but we know how to play. We know we can play through them, get through the lines and if we do that we will create chances.”
Brown played down suggestions he is seeking any personal payback for the Ibrox defeat which saw Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield appear to mimic the Celtic captain’s ‘Broony’ celebration at one stage.
“Nothing annoys me any more,” said Brown with the merest flicker of a grin.
“I’ve seen it all. I didn’t even know it happened at the time. It’s part and parcel of football. You win games and people celebrate. It’s an emotional fixture and people always want to win.”