It might just as easily be applied to the football domain. It feels as if it is all about endings at Celtic this season. And none of them of the happy variety. The, surely, unsuccessful end of the club’s obsessed-over pursuit of a record 10 consecutive titles is sure to have profound consequences. It is difficult to see how such an outcome would not bring to an end the immense Celtic tenures of manager Neil Lennon, chief executive Peter Lawwell and captain Scott Brown. Driving forces across a decade in which the club have dominated the Scottish game in an unprecedented manner. There may have been nine-in-a-row championship runs previously, but there has never been - and never will be again - a quadruple treble.
Brown, now 35 and no longer a regular starter, is coy about what lies for him beyond the summer expiry of his current deal at a club that has been his football home for almost 14 years. But the Fifer isn’t thinking about the end of his days in the game. Even as he had admirably acknowledged that Ismaila Soro, the 22-year-old midfielder who has assumed his duties in Celtic’s engine room for the past two months, has deserved his opportunity in having age and mobility advantages over him.
Indeed, if anything good could be said to have emerged from Celtic’s Dubai farrago, for Brown it seems to have been the thinking time afforded him in being one of the 13 players forced to isolate last week, along with Lennon and his assistant John Kennedy. A fate imposed on that group through being identified as close contacts of Christopher Jullien following his Covid-19 positive test on the club’s return from the United Arab Emirates. It was exasperating for Brown to watch from his sofa as a Celtic shorn of all their senior attackers by the isolation process were held to home draws by Hibs and Livingston to fall an eye-watering 21 points behind their ancient adversaries Rangers. It did, though, spell out something loud and clear to him.
“I think it’s the longest I’ve been away from Lennoxtown when the lads have been in training and it’s shown me that retirement is not going to be great. I want to stick about in the game as long as I possibly can,” Brown said. “Don’t get me wrong, it was good to see the kids, but I love coming into my work and I love working hard. It’s not a chore for me to come into my work. It’s something I love to do. I wouldn’t say my mind has been made up or changed. It’s for me to sit down and think about my options, whether I want to continue in football or in coaching or elsewhere. I’ve not exactly sat down and thought about it yet. We will just wait and see. But you never know. If I’m still playing here in three, four, five months time you never know.”
It hardly sounds like Brown isn’t in the end game with Celtic, but he won’t allow himself to think that a spectacular explosion in a title campaign would be far from a fitting way for him to bow out at Celtic on the back of a career at the club that has brought him 10 league championship winners’ medals. “I’m not thinking that far ahead,” he said.” We have a huge game against Livingston coming up and we’re taking it one game at a time. It’s not for everyone to worry about my situation – myself, the manager and Peter Lawwell will sit down and sort that out together. Until that happens, we’ll just concentrate on getting back to winning ways.”
Brown refuses to give up hope that a miraculous turnaround can be enacted to see Celtic overhaul a seemingly-unstoppable Ibrox side. Yet, it shows how the mighty Parkhead side have fallen that even simply securing a win at West Lothian would seem a minor triumph. The midweek encounter - one of three games Lennon’s men have in hand over Rangers - has assumed hazardous proportions as a result of David Martindale’s men being able to dictate to their depleted hosts on Saturday and the fact they have not been between at home by Celtic in the clubs’ past three meetings at Almondvale.
“We still have that belief and we still have belief in each other as well,” Brown said. “We will just take it one step at a time and make sure that we win our games in hand starting with a victory on Wednesday and then push on from there because we owe it to every one of the fans, everyone who has been supporting us throughout the years. We need to make sure we keep fighting, no matter how long it takes.”
Those same fans have turned on Brown, Lennon and Lawwell as the men who have destroyed their dreams of the 10. The abuse meted out to the Celtic manager has been particularly unedifying but his ever-faithful captain hasn’t been put off moving trackside one day by how quickly the lauded can become the lanced.
“Seeing him come in and work as hard as he does – and how hard everyone at Lennoxtown works – and especially how we prepare for game days [appeals]. I like that part,” said Brown, who believes Lennon’s “passionate love” for a Celtic with which he has had a two-decade association should see him retained however the season turns out. “Management is never going to be easy – there are always going to be people out there who think they know better because they’ve been playing Football Manager. Ask them to give a team talk to the lads, though, and they would struggle. A lot of people have their say now - it’s part and parcel of living in 2021.”