Neil Lennon has hailed the importance of Celtic’s captain Scott Brown to his current starting eleven, as reported by The Daily Record.
Lennon was speaking as the team prepare to face off against Estonian champions Nomme Kalju on Wednesday.
Brown has featured in all but one of the matches played since the manager took over from Brendan Rodgers in February.
Now Lennon has admitted he would be seriously concerned if the captain became unavailable.
As quoted by The Daily Record, the Hoops boss said: “He sets the tempo in training. He’s at the forefront and takes the responsibility. He was outstanding in both of Champions League qualifying games against Sarajevo and he’s a safety valve for us.
“I don’t think you ever lose that edge he has. On and off the field, he’s such a good influence for us. If he was out of the team for any concerted period of time – it would be a serious concern for me.”
So crucial in Europe
As Lennon notes, Brown is a huge leadership presence in the dressing room and it’s an attribute of his that becomes even more vital in European football.
The team’s mentality is so important on these occasions. We’ve seen in the past that the team can wilt in hostile environments and suffer defensive collapses.
Brown is not just a ‘safety valve’, as Lennon describes, positionally but also in terms of being a galvanising presence through periods of adversity in tight encounters.
Lennon’s ‘serious concern’
It’s interesting that Lennon paints such a worrying picture of Celtic without the captain. He is clearly worried about his midfield should Brown not be available.
That could in part be because Olivier Ntcham seems less committed than others.
Also, beyond Callum McGregor there is no real viable holding option in the middle of the park. Nir Bitton is fit and healthy but is nowhere near as tenacious as Brown.
Luca Connell has arrived to add depth but still just 18 it would be unfair to expect to replace veteran Brown’s influence in the team.
Signing yet another midfielder could be on the cards then before the transfer window shuts. Perhaps someone who has the battling spirit of the captain, but also a bit of experience and presence.