If he did not remain such an integral member of the team, it would be possible to speculate what the future might hold for Scott Brown at Celtic. He turns 35 in June and the midfielder is already into the second year of a contract extension he signed in January 2019. That meant he was able to lead the club to eight titles in a row, with another, at the time of writing, pending.
Brown would clearly like to stick around for an attempt at a record ten successive titles providing the ninth is confirmed, with talk persisting of trying to play out the remaining eight match days of the Premiership season. Celtic – with Brown in his usual position in midfield – have not been in action since a 5-0 win over St Mirren on 7 March.
In an interview on Radio Scotland’s Sportsound, Brown recalled facing calls to retire prior to the arrival of Brendan Rodgers prior to the 2016-17 season. His response was to get fitter than ever. He won the players’ and Scottish football writers’ player of the year award the next again season.
He seems every bit as determined to keep himself in shape during the current lockdown in an attempt to prolong a career at Celtic Park already nearing its 13th anniversary. He signed from Hibs in the summer of 2007.
Providing he is not humiliating himself in front of 60,000 fans or spending the majority of the time on the bench, Brown wants to stay and play a part – even if it means not playing every game – in future title wins.
“I will keep playing until someone says, ‘right Broony your legs have totally went – it is time for you, you have started to embarrass yourself in front of 60,000 fans’.
“I think as long as I am keeping up with the lads and looking good in training and the manager still has faith in me to play… It might not be 65 games a season, it might be 30,40, 20 games a season – whatever he needs me for.
“I am willing to do that until I am sitting on the bench maybe week in, week out and not playing for half a season – I think that will be the time for me and the club to call it quits.”
Brown admired the way Kenny Miller kept on playing until he was into his 40s. While he might not be able to do that at the very top level, he doesn’t want ever to feel he cut short what he enjoys and excels at most.
“My passion and the thing I have only really ever been good at is playing football and running around keeping myself fit,” said Brown. “I think for me the love of football drives me on as much as I possibly can.”
Brown revealed that he is running along the side of roads and in fields around his Edinburgh home to keep himself in shape during football’s current shutdown.
“It is good for me,” he said. “I am outside running in the street, finding big fields and taking the big poles, doing whatever I do to keep myself fit as possible. I have a bike, and all that – so that’s not a big issue. It is the sharpness as much as anything (that you risk losing).”
In a wide-ranging interview, Brown also reflected on the best player he had played alongside in nearly 13 years at Celtic. He picked Virgil van Dijk, now at Liverpool, as the outstanding team-mate, describing him as “an absolute Rolls Royce”. But he revealed the defender was forced out of his comfort zone by “born winner” Neil Lennon.
“He (Van Dijk) came and you knew he had quality but at the time he probably did not look after himself as well as he probably should have done,” Brown recalled. “Then Neil had him in the gym, double sessions.
“He lost I think about half to three-quarters of a stone. You saw him slowly producing these quality results, pulling everyone together. He pretty much held that back four together through thick and thin.
“You could see he was going to go up another couple of levels as well,” he continued. “People were saying there were a lot of fast players in this league and he was cruising past them – and that’s a big 6ft 4in centre-half. So you can imagine what he is like now and how well he is doing.”
Expanding on Lennon’s influence, he added: “He developed him into becoming a winner. The gaffer does that to everybody – that is his best talent he will ever have.
“He (Lennon) was a winner as a player and he is a winner as a manager. He wants the best for every single person. He has mellowed in his age shall I say – but he’s cherishing the role right now.
“He is flying, coming in and doing all the work possible and he is coming in with a smile on his face as well. He took Virgil under his wing. He knew how good a player he had after a couple of training sessions.
“You can usually tell what players are going to be like but Virgil was so much stronger – he physically battered most of the players we had. It was amazing to watch, especially to watch him play the way he did in games as well. He was so relaxed and chilled out on the ball.”