Mjallby’s admiration for the Celtic captain is deep-seated, following his four-years as Lennon’s second in command across his first spell from 2010. The Swede “loves” the 35-year-old, he says. However, the impact of Ismaila Soro in helping claim back-to-back wins for the first time since October in the two encounters leading up to Hampden - the wins ending a run of five games without a victory - means the Ivorian has earned the right to be berthed alongside Callum McGregor at the base of Celtic’s midfield instead of Brown.
Mjallby, though, doesn’t pretend the burning issue in the lead-up to the showpiece is other than torturous for Lennon “Ooooh….it is a tricky one,” the former Celtic centre-back said. “Not only myself, we [all] love Scott Brown, not only for what he has been doing on the pitch but off the pitch as well. He is a true Celtic legend and he has been a tremendous leader over the last few years but at the same time I think Neil will stick with Soro after two games. I do think so because they have won the last two games now, Soro has been doing well and showing a lot of energy and the ability to win the ball back.
“It is really tricky and I think it is tricky for Neil as well because obviously Scott Brown is where he is. I think it is good for the team and the squad that they have more competition now from Soro playing really well and hopefully he will continue to do so. It is only going to be good because you need to give Callum McGregor a rest now and then as well, you know. I love Scott Brown. He has been tremendous and a true legend for Celtic but at the same time I think the answer to the question is that Neil is going to stick with Soro for this game.”
Mjallby doesn’t pretend that such a call - which it seems unlikely Lennon will make despite the conviction with which the Swedish international offers his assessment - would go down well with Brown. A man who has given more to put Celtic within a final win of a world-first quadruple treble, and has enjoyed a glittering successful 13-and-a-half years at the club that has made him the club’s third most decorated player in the club’s history with 21 winners’ medals. Yet, he knows that the veteran would set aside his disappointment for the greater good.
“I can guarantee that it’s Celtic first, him second,” said Mjallby. “As a professional, I can’t expect him to be laughing or happy at missing out on a final if it happens. But I do think he’s clever enough to know that it’s up to him, when he gets time on the pitch, to show Neil he should be in the team. He’s a clever boy, he’s been through most things, and he would understand Neil sticking with a team that’s been winning.”
Johan Mjallby was speaking at a William Hill event. William Hill are proud sponsors of the Scottish Cup.