10-in-a-row will always be the sole focus this season, but there’s another big talking point that’s being overshadowed because of it – who will be Scott Brown’s successor?
It’s not so much a case of who will be the next Celtic captain when Broony packs it in. Callum McGregor is the current vice-captain, so there’s already a ready-made replacement there in that sense.
But what about the role Brown has on the pitch? A player who can protect the back four and be a ball-winner when we need him? A player who can put some fear into the opposition and inspire with his mentality?
Celtic don’t just need an aggressive hard-hitter to take up Brown’s role either. We need a talented all-round footballer. Brown has never really been given the credit he deserves for his technique, but on his day his ball-control and distribution is up there with anyone in Scotland.
Thankfully for Celtic, there are several contenders starting to line-up as potential options for when the captain’s contract expires this summer.
Turnbull the outstanding candidate, but others are gathering
The first name you’re attracted to in the Celtic squad as a long-term replacement is former Motherwell midfielder David Turnbull. The man the Hoops splashed out on in a deal that could go up to £3.25m (BBC).
Turnbull is a natural box-to-box midfielder – similar to Broony in his younger days. The Scotland under-21 international gets up and down the pitch quickly, showing real aggression in the challenge whilst providing an eye for goal up the other end.
Yet the impressive thing about Turnbull is his care on the ball. He’s not about winning the ball back and giving it to players who can create. He can do the creating and the finishing himself, as his 16 goals and seven assists in 41 appearances for Motherwell showed (Transfermarkt).
All in all, he’s the favourite to replace the captain at the moment, and very much looks like the full package.
Yet despite looking sharp in a short cameo appearance in Dingwall on Saturday, Turnbull wasn’t the only one to make a positive impression.
Ismaila Soro, Celtic’s January addition from Israeli outfit Bnei Yehuda, didn’t look as if he was out of his depth either.
Soro looked more like Brown has in the latter stages of his career. He took up that position right in front of the back four and provided the defence with an easy route out of the back.
Yet, unlike Brown, Soro’s focus when in possession was to find a forward pass. Whilst Brown these days tends to look for wide options or play it safe, Soro looked keen to take risks so long as the potential reward was to get his team into more dangerous areas.
Soro also did well not to get too overexcited. When Celtic were attacking in the closing stages of the 5-0 rout against County, he stuck to his task. He sat deeper and provided the back three with some added protection, mopping up whenever the ball came his way.
It was only a 12-minute appearance, but the Celtic fans left impressed with what he had to offer. Soro certainly looks like another contender for Brown’s spot if given the chance.
A chance for youth to shine?
Then you have youngster Luca Connell, who Hoops fans have been urging Lennon to select more often.
Connell looks like he’s a bit more on the outside looking in than Turnbull and Soro, but he’s still been catching the manager’s attention as well as the supporters.
The deep-lying midfielder was a heavy part of Celtic’s pre-season program, and didn’t look out of place in a 3-1 friendly win against Hibernian at Celtic Park as he bagged a beautiful assist.
Speaking in last week’s edition of the Celtic View (09/09, page 25), Connell said: “I’m feeling good, feeling strong and in good shape. I’ve been working with the fitness coaches and I’m ready for whatever’s next.”
Connell’s no-nonsense midfield approach shined through against Hibs, as did his eye for a pass regardless of how deep on the pitch he was. Tidy and error-less in the engine room, he’s another who’s absolutely banging down the door for more minutes this season.
He fits naturally into Brown’s position too, and is ready to be tested whenever Lennon gives him the chance.
But for now, Celtic have several potential options working away as they continue to search for Brown’s on-field successor. I for one refuse to believe the club haven’t already signed the player they wish to replace him.
With Turnbull, Soro, and Connell all having something to prove this year, we could be set for an intriguing battle as the campaign goes on.
In other news, a Sky Sports reported has stated Celtic are happy to wait until January before strengthening in a key position.