Scott Brown has warned the rest of Scottish football there will be no let-up in Celtic’s pursuit of domestic dominance as they seek to extend their history-making achievements under Brendan Rodgers.
The Scottish champions started pre-season training yesterday, with one of Brown’s first duties the launch of a DVD commemorating their success in winning an unprecedented “double treble” in the campaign which ended just over four weeks ago.
But the time for Celtic captain Brown and his team-mates to reflect on their remarkable run of trophy wins under Rodgers is already over.
Ahead of a season when Rangers hope to provide a more telling challenge under their new manager Steven Gerrard, while Aberdeen and Hibernian will look to build on the manner in which they competed at the top end of the Premiership, Brown insists Celtic are ready to strive for even greater heights.
“We want more trophies, we want to be better and stronger, to break even more records and go down in the history books,” said the 32-year-old midfielder. “That comes down to hard work in the gym and on the training park now. Our manager’s talk to us when we got together for pre-season today proved that he knows what’s happening.
“It is going to be a harder league. Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs will be stronger this season and Rangers will be stronger under a new manager. But we do believe that we work harder than most teams. We always turn up, we work, we create more chances and, nine times out of ten, that wins you the game.
“We’ve got to believe in our own ability and the people in our dressing room, believe that we’re fitter and stronger and better than everyone else. We’ll push on and the main thing is our focus is on ourselves. It’s not about Rangers, Hibs or Aberdeen – it’s about how we play and whether or not we turn up.”
Gerrard has already observed that he feels superior fitness levels were a key factor in Celtic’s continued dominance of Old Firm matches last season, an issue he intends to address.
“We felt that in most games,” agreed Brown. “We score a lot more goals in the last 15/20 minutes of games because we have a lot more of the ball and we create more chances. We work harder than every other team that we play against and that is down to what we do out there on the training pitch.
“But the lads want to get even fitter than they were last season. We dropped a lot of sloppy points, especially at home in front of the fans. We have a new pitch and there are no excuses. The pitch will be fantastic all season and we can play proper football on it.
“Rangers have brought someone new in but they’ve done that before and we’ve just kicked on and we’ll need to do that again now. That intensity has been there already in what we’ve done so far.
“He [Gerrard] was a top player himself and he’ll want his team to play good football, just like our manager does with us. He worked with our manager at Liverpool, saw how well it works and he will have his own philosophy and put his own style on it.
“Fans want to see exciting football. They don’t want to see the ball being punted long and the grass seven inches long and everyone heading it and kicking it the way they face.
“In Scotland that’s the way it should be going. You want the young players to be coming through at an even better level than before. You don’t want them to be the long-ball team who can’t pass a ball ten yards but can defend.
“We have got the belief in how we play but we also have players who can create chances and score goals from nothing as well. That is where the belief starts. We know the fitness levels are up there. But we have top quality individuals and we can put that wee bit of faith in them to score goals.”
One of those sources of goals is Odsonne Edouard, the 20-year-old French striker who became Celtic’s most expensive signing last week when he completed a permanent £9 million move from Paris Saint-Germain.
Brown believes Edouard, pictured inset, who spent last season on loan at the club, won’t be fazed by the big price tag now attached to him.
“The record fee won’t bother him,” said Brown. “There’s always a weight of expectation when you come to Celtic anyway, because you need to win all the time while playing attractive football.
“Since Odsonne came in on loan, he’s been fantastic but he’s a very chilled-out guy who doesn’t worry about too much so I don’t think he’ll be too concerned by what we paid for him.
“He’s a terrific finisher and it’s great to have him here for the next few years. He’s a good lad as well and, first and foremost, that’s what you look at – you want a good person in the dressing room, not a big-time Charlie or someone who’s going to disrupt what we’re trying to do here.
“It’s a statement of intent signing him. People maybe say that we don’t spend a lot of money and we know we can’t compete with the money levels down in England but we can push our budget as far as we possibly can and that is what we do at this club. We bring the best we can in terms of what we can spend and we do that very well.”