Celtic captain Scott Brown’s contract runs out this summer.
As far as we can tell, the iconic number 8 hasn’t been approached for a renewal. Interestingly, for a player who we thought was past his best, Brown has been more than decent over a short spell in the team.
However, at 35, he doesn’t represent the long-term future of Celtic. In his stead, Callum McGregor has been given the captain’s armband. However, not everybody in the Bhoys’ support is entirely convinced by CalMac as a leader. More understated, but no less passionate than Scott Brown, McGregor seems the obvious choice, but there are others within the squad to consider.
Let’s have a look at 4 potential Celtic captains, and review whether they’d make sense as the next to wear the armband.
Callum McGregor: interim Celtic captain
Pros: experience, leadership
Cons: lacks charisma
When Scott Brown is out of the team, CalMac deputises. He’s had an incredibly hard time of it this season, offered to the media after our more dismal defeats and disappointing results.
On the pitch, he leads by example. He’s not typically a shouter and bawler, not does he perform the theatrics associated with the role. More quietly effective, he can show his passion in bursts: his reaction to scoring a penalty against Lille was clear evidence.
In that Lille game, Callum McGregor showed Celtic captain material. While his mistake was capitalised upon by the French side, he dragged us back into the game. However, there’s little other evidence that he can inspire Celtic back from a deficit. That could work against him.
Still, he’s a class wee guy, who always conducts himself in a manner befitting the captaincy. He’s the safest bet of the bunch, and the smart money would suggest that he’ll take the role long-term.
Pros: vocal, talented
Cons: may leave for pastures new
Kristoffer Ajer is a player who needs little introduction.
Undoubtedly a leader, the centre-back is a vocal presence out on the pitch. He celebrates tackles like goals, and is quickly in the ear of his fellow defenders.
At nearly 6’5″, he’s a commanding physical presence, and at 22, there’s a real optimism about him in Norway. There’s very serious talk about Ajer captaining a Golden Generation of Norwegian talents. When I had a conversation with journalist Jonas Giæver about a Celtic transfer target, Giæver spoke in glowing terms about Ajer’s leadership and potential.
However, it doesn’t look all too likely that the potential Ajer has will be fulfilled at Celtic. Strongly linked with moves elsewhere, a European giant could come calling for the tall centre-back sooner rather than later. Perhaps the captaincy could provide a carrot for Ajer staying at Celtic, but it’s hard to say.
Pros: Academy graduate, bags of potential
This may seem like a left-field choice but bear with us. We are not privy to how Celtic players interact and train together on a personal level. Greg Taylor is, though [Daily Record]:
“Welshy is not a quiet lad. Even at the start of the season. He leads and he talks. That is definitely beneficial for him and that is the reason he is doing so well at the moment.
“It was difficult for him at the start of the season, as it was for us all during that period. But Welshy acquitted himself well in those games and ever since he has come back into the side he has been a breath of fresh air.”
Not a bad review, that.
Yes, he’s inexperienced, having only really broken into the side this season. Also, he’s far from a regular, although that could change in the near future. We’ve had young centre-backs captain the squad for varying lengths of time; Stephen McManus, Darren O’Dea and of course, Billy McNeill.
Pros: Tenured, experienced
Cons: quiet, unassuming
James Forrest will be remembered as a Celtic legend. But a Celtic captain? Who knows.
When the history books are written, and your grandkids are reading about the 9IAR heroes, they will ask you about James Forrest. What will you tell them?
You might say that he came through the academy, and was an incredibly hard-working player who provided goals and assists by the bucket-load. Or, you might say he was occasionally good but had a tendency of going missing in games. Both could be true.
A veteran of the Celtic squad by this point, Forrest is the type to eschew social media and the modern trappings of being a footballer. Largely an uncontroversial figure, he clearly comes from an excellent family, as by all accounts both he and brother Alan, of Livingston, are both model professionals.
So why not hand our most experienced player the armband? Is it such a bad idea, if Forrest himself were keen? Sure, he’s not the fire and rage of Scott Brown, but there are different types of captain. Jackie McNamara and Paul McStay, for example. Paul Lambert, not exactly a hot-head.
At the very least, Forrest is a steady pair of hands. He knows the club inside-out, is a supporter, and understands the expectancy of the fans.
ELSEWHERE: Do you agree with Chris Sutton?