Why Celtic captain Scott Brown is a genuine player of the year contender - especially if Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack is shortlisted

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Is Celtic captain Scott Brown one of the most under-appreciated stars in Scottish football?

Fans of clubs other than Celtic will have likely read the above and react with bewilderment, disbelief or even anger. The last thing required is another puff piece on Scott Brown.

Does Celtic captain Scott Brown deserve to be considered among the best player of the season so far? Picture: SNS

Does Celtic captain Scott Brown deserve to be considered among the best player of the season so far? Picture: SNS

For he is one of, if not the most divisive figure in Scottish football.

Over-rated. Arrogant. A bully. A thug. Someone who didn't challenge himself. Someone who didn't fulfil the potential which saw Celtic part with around £4.5 million to sign this irascible 21-year-old from Hibernian back in 2007.

At the time of the signing, Mark Atkinson in the The Guardian wrote: "Brown, a dynamic, driving midfielder, is widely considered the most exciting young player in Scotland and made his first start for the senior national team against Italy in March. He has reportedly been courted by Rangers, Everton, Tottenham and Middlesbrough.

"Of the clutch of players that have recently come through the Hibs youth system, Brown is considered the best of the bunch. He made his debut for the club at 17 and has since been a mainstay in the side. Noted for his combative tackling and dynamic attacking instincts, Brown can play on either wing, in the centre of midfield and up front."

It was the third player the Easter Road side had lost to Celtic in a short period of time. Kevin Thomson had also left for Rangers. Fans of teams losing key players want to see those individuals move down south or abroad, not to Glasgow.

Even more so when the player in question has the perfect concoction of technical, physical and mental attributes. Dribbling, passing, tackling. Power, pace and dynamism. Determination, aggression, confidence.

When he moved along the M8, few could have envisaged Brown still being at Celtic at the age of 34 let alone still captaining ther side and regularly adding to his glut of trophies - 20 and counting at Parkhead.

To borrow a line from Will Reeves when speaking about Doctor Manhattan in HBO show The Watchmen: "Considering what he could do, he could've done more".

It is something which will always stick. There will always be that sense of "what if..." with regards to moving to England. Could he have done more, achieved more, reached greater heights?

Most importantly, however, it is something which will unlikely bother him as he shines his winner's medals and holds onto the memories of leading Celtic to historic feats.

He currently shows no signs of slowing down, either.

Brown continues to play a hugely influential role in the Celtic midfield, in a side which is once again topping the table and made history in Europe, becoming the first Scottish team to qualify from a group with two games to spare.

His importance to the Celtic team was clear to see at the weekend as he directed Neil Lennon's men to another win, beating former club Hibs 2-0 at Parkhead. And directed is the key word. At times he is criticised by both outsiders and the club's own supporters for perceived passing inadequacies compared to team-mates, especially on the European stage.

It is something which can no longer be levelled at him. Only Callum McGregor has made more passes and played the ball forward more than Brown this season. In the last four campaigns the veteran has been in the top five in the league for the two metrics.

Brendan Rodgers breathed new life into Brown. The midfielder collects and moves the ball more effectively and efficiently. He has been moulded and shaped into a metronomic presence at the base of midfield.

Against Hibs he played a couple of excellent penetrative passes, through opposition lines. He thwarted any threat from former team-mate Scott Allan with his eagerness in shutting down the Easter Road side's talismanic playmaker. This pest-like ability is one every fan of every team wants to see in their side. Allan summed it up when he was on the receiving end of a ticking off from John Beaton for scything down Brown.

Against Hearts in midweek, a different Brown was required. The scheming, battling leader.

Over the last few years he has started to play with a sense of serenity; completely at ease with his talent, of what is expected of him, of his responsibility - even when it hasn't gone well.

Think of the time at Pittodrie where he got thumped in a challenge before having the ball hoofed against him. Rather than get up in a confrontational manner, he dusted himself down and swaggered away with a grin on his face.

More importantly, he is no stranger to being written off. Indeed, it has happened twice since 2016.

Brown was supposedly finished, done at the end of Ronny Deila's campaign as he struggled through the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers, then again earlier this year.

Eyebrows were raised when Lennon said he would build the team around him back in April. But the Northern Irishman's decision has been vindicated thus far.

There have been two obvious stars of Celtic's season so far in French striker Odsonne Edouard and dynamic No.10 Ryan Christie. Cases could also be made for defender Kristoffer Ajer and midfielder Callum McGregor.

The latter, like Brown, has played a lot, but it is the elder statesman who has been more prominent and authoritative.

"Big players make the difference in big games and he's continually a big player for us," Lennon said after a 2-1 win over Hamilton. "[Brown] is inspirational. He just keeps churning out magnificent performances."

It was that Hamilton game where his captain qualities came to the fore. Drawing with Accies going into the final minutes and seconds, he ran onto a Mikey Johnston header, into the box and, while others were likely losing their head, he calmly stroked the ball into the far corner to earn the league leaders a vital win in the most enthralling title race in nearly a decade, opening up a two-point gap over Rangers.

It was his fourth goal of the season, his best return since 2015.

You only have to look across the city to see another midfielder, who has filled column inches with his starring performances for Rangers, pushing him in Player of the Year contention: Ryan Jack.

While the 27-year-old has been significant for Steven Gerrard's men, having the season of his life, has he been better than Scott Brown?

Ask yourself this, when the chips are down, who would you rather have in your midfield?

Even with a couple of Players' Player of the Year trophies, Brown is unlikely to be hungrily eyeing individual awards. But he should be in the conversation when it comes to such a prize at the end of the season.

Alongside Alfredo Morelos, Jack, Edouard and Christie, should stand the veteran midfielder.

He is still scrapping, still passing, still leading and even finding the back of the net again. Doing it all to a high standard.

Standards, whether it is technical, physical or mental, which every player in Scotland should look up to.