Nicholas is at it again: Scott Brown is a Celtic legend, plain and simple

By Euan Davidson

May 4, 2021

It wouldn’t be like former Celtic striker Charlie Nicholas to be reactionary, would it?

After this weekend’s drama/dross, there are plenty of wild Celtic takes filling the ether. Everyone is having their say, and quite rightly too: the Bhoys were abysmal at the weekend, and there are so many talking points.

For one thing, there’s the fact we don’t have a manager. Our CEO is being replaced. There’s nobody heading up recruitment. There’s a lot, and we do mean a lot to talk about. So former Celtic forward Charlie Nicholas summed up the mood of precisely nobody by claiming Scott Brown isn’t a Bhoys legend.

In his Daily Express column [print edition, page 55], Nicholas went off. He said:

“Scott Brown will be easy to replace on the field for Celtic.

“All this ‘legend’ talk is nonsense.

“A legend should have been the best ever player in a position or be remembered for doing something great like the Lisbon Lions.”

Charlie Nicholas won two league titles and a league cup with Celtic, over two spells. Broony has won 22 trophies at Paradise, the majority of which were sealed as a captain.

It’s an interesting take: let’s discuss it.

Celtic captain Scott Brown / (Photo by Scott Baxter/Getty Images)

Charlie Nicholas’ Celtic and Scott Brown comments under review: part 1

First off: are we already taking a Charlie Nicholas column 100% too seriously? Very possibly. Nonetheless, it’s a bizarre thing to have said about a bona fide Celtic great.

If it was just that “Scott Brown wouldn’t get into my All-Time XI”, or “Scott Brown is no Paul McStay”, it’d be reasonable. That would be a generational thing, and it’d be redundant to dismiss it. That isn’t the case here though, it’s the outright nonsense that’d hard to digest.

In terms of doing “something great”, Scott Brown captained us to 9IAR. Beyond lifting the European Cup, it’s hard to know what more Broony could’ve done, other than, of course, the 10. But I’d be willing to bet that had Celtic won the title this year, and Scott Brown rode off to Pittodrie in the sunset, Nicholas would be praising him.

Also, the Lisbon Lions are an impossible barometer, for any club in European football. To build a team of locals and win against one of the great 20th Century club sides? It’ll never, ever be done again, just like it hasn’t been done since. But that doesn’t take anything away from the legends who have come since. By Nicholas’ standards, neither Tommy Burns, Danny McGrain nor Paul McStay are Celtic legends.

Also, it’s such a weird and unnecessary dig, especially for the time. If Nicholas truly believed in what he was writing, he’d have launched this absolutely nuclear take when Broony announced he’d be leaving Celtic. That’s when words like that might’ve held more weight.

By now, we’ve pretty much dealt with how Brown is perceived by Celtic supporters. It’s us, after all, who decide these things collectively. I’d put pretty good money on this opinion being laughed out of Paradise were you to emit it on a match day.

Charlie Nicholas in his early 80s pomp / (Photo by David Cannon/Allsport)

Part 2: Easy to replace?!

Secondly, fine: Broony isn’t the player he was. He was having a stormer over March and early April, but his overuse had exposed weaknesses. That isn’t necessarily his fault, and we’ve talked about over-reliance on certain individuals in the squad on a number of occasions.

However, the idea that Scott Brown would be easy to replace is absolute nonsense. Very few players in Celtic’s history can boast the number of individual and team accolades our number 8 has won over the years. Even if his on-pitch influence is waning, he still holds a great amount of sway in the dressing room.

These are intangible qualities you can’t measure, things like leadership, charisma and influence. Still, anyone in the first-team squad would be able to talk for hours about how Scott Brown helped them settle, or how he led them through a difficult match, or gave them a laugh when they needed it. These are well-known things.

But Nicholas said “on the pitch”, and it’s right to take him at face value if that’s what he’s saying. Perhaps, short-term, yes. Further ahead though, we’re not exactly bursting with leaders, even less so with those capable of emulating Brown. On peak form, perhaps aside from Callum McGregor, there is nobody who can influence the play like Brown. Certainly, there’s nobody who can intimidate opposition like him.

Those qualities may be something our next manager has to buy.

Saying Broony is easily replaceable and not a legend, though? It’s an incredibly disrespectful thing for a supposed supporter to say. Given the sheer volume of minutes, his career-long ability to keep possession and his influence, it’s a laughable statement on any level.

Honestly, it’s bizarre that there are so many articulate, thoughtful ex-pros who don’t garner the column inches of someone like Charlie Nicholas.

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