Neil Lennon used Scott Brown in the right way last night; too late for Celtic

By Euan Davidson

February 3, 2021

When Celtic captain Scott Brown trudged off the pitch against Livingston, he looked done. The leader, on-pitch motivator and former midfield dynamo threw an arm needlessly, and got his marching orders.

It appeared to be a final significant act from a player who has served this club with distinction. A sad end to a legacy of ruthless winning.

When he was announced in last night’s starting XI, there was legitimate cause for concern. Soro needed resting, but still; reason to be worried.

But Scott Brown was absolutely everywhere last night.

Now, before we continue here, yes: that was a poor Killie team. This isn’t the Kilmarnock we’ve seen over the last few years, who have caused us problems. The manager-less side actually got away the same number of shots as Celtic did last night, but the 4-0 scoreline tells its own story.

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Equally, sure – there’s little at stake, by this point. Lennon could afford to rest Soro, a revelation and one of our only bright sparks this season. Still, if anyone needed a win and a huge performance, it was Neil Lennon and Celtic captain Scott Brown.

And a huge performance we got. Brown was absolutely colossal in the middle of the park. On WhoScored?, the captain won a rating of 9.9 (which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before). He was making tackles, he was successful with 90% of his passes, and he dictated the tempo with 107 touches of the ball.

Perhaps most importantly, Broony started the scoring. A header from a David Turnbull corner began the damage for Kilmarnock, who couldn’t get through the middle without the 35-year-old disrupter getting in the way.

Since I’ve started writing for 67 Hail Hail, I’ve written plenty about Scott Brown’s overuse and diminishing talents. Let me tell you – it’s been no source of enjoyment. Broony, to me, is a brilliant captain, an on-field leader who you love to have in your team, and opposition fans despise.

At their best, those kinds of players drag you forward, and win you titles. As is the case with Scott Brown.

Celtic celebrate a rare Broony goal / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Still fleetingly brilliant, should Celtic keep Scott Brown?

Here’s the thing; we can’t get that from Broony twice a week. It’s unrealistic to expect all-round midfield dominance from a player of his years. Also, with Soro’s input this season, he doesn’t deserve to lose his place.

However, it’s comforting to know he’s there. He needed that display last night, to prove he can still do it. Even if it is irregular, he’s trying to portray himself as someone who can be useful for another year, at least. Surely, any thoughts he had about retiring have become more complicated after a display like last night’s.

I’m not arguing one way or the other. Again; this was a poor Kilmarnock side, but you can only play what’s in front of you. If you play extremely well, even against weak opposition, then you’re still worthy of praise. The same is true of Ajeti, Edouard and Turnbull.

So let’s not jump to any major conclusions here. Brown’s performance is, granted, a small success story during a torrid season. At the same time, though, it’ll have given plenty pause for thought.

He looked, for all intents and purposes, a spent force when he marched off the pitch against Livingston [BBC]. This was the perfect reaction, and it shows a level-headedness and maturity that should be inspirational to his younger colleagues.

We’re still very much a club in crisis, and the manager still needs to consider his position for us to move forward. We need to look to a future without Scott Brown. Both those things are true. However, it’s also true that we should herald impressive displays from our captain when we get the chance.

Elsewhere, Neil Lennon has disclosed the reasons behind a high-profile departure.