EVERYBODY seems to have their own diagnosis for Scott Brown's ongoing hip issues, but the patient himself seems to be doing just fine.
The Celtic captain has followed in the footsteps of Marvin Andrews by declining an operation on a problem injury but such worries were forgotten yesterday as he dissected the Kilmarnock defence to help Celtic carry their European form into domestic business for a change.
Brown provided a clinical finish for the opener – his first goal since March – and helped carved open the home defence for the other two as the Parkhead club extracted a measure of revenge for a 2-0 defeat in Glasgow in October.
Brown's situation has been a source of debate – the club's Champions League last-16 match is nine weeks away, approximately the same recovery time he would require should he go under the knife – but this performance should put a few minds at rest.
The troublesome joint was robust enough for him to aim a swipe early on at Borja Perez, and he was still running around, and picking up a booking in the last few moments, with the game won.
Joined at the hip with him yesterday was Joe Ledley, both midfielders subject to a wager that they would not get on the scoresheet. While Celtic manager Neil Lennon admitted the Welshman has a similar complaint to Brown, and may require 10 days off, the Scotland midfielder joked about putting his winnings on the "deposit for a house" before getting tetchy over all this fuss about injury.
"I had a 20 quid bet with both of them before the game so I'm 40 quid out of pocket," said Lennon. "After Wednesday we wondered if we should give him [Brown] a rest but he didn't want it. We know it's not ideal, but it's not ideal to have surgery either because we don't know if it'll solve the problem. But look, if he's playing like that, I'm not going to rest him if he's feeling fine and pain free."
"Hopefully I can get back to getting up and down the park again instead of sitting in the middle and trying to get through games," Brown said.
If this was a glimpse of life now that Celtic have the Champions League group stages out of their system it did appear a good omen for the rest of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League's teams.
"It bodes badly for us because we have to play them again in January," said Kenny Shiels, the Kilmarnock manager.
A crowd of just 6501 made it to Rugby Park, a far cry from the attendance for the 6-0 win in April which clinched Celtic the league title. There was a shock of sorts when Manuel Pascali was not in the home line-up after Shiels had mischievously mooted playing the suspended Italian.
Celtic lined up in an unusual 3-5-2 shape but this was a strong side, with just Adam Matthews coming in for the injured Mikael Lustig, and Lassad Nouioui for Georgios Samaras, who was linked in the morning papers with a January move to Liverpool.
The Parkhead side made a muscular start, with Matthews enjoying acres of space down the right, and it was little surprise that he had a hand in the opener. The Welshman burst on to a Gary Hooper pass and his cut-back was met by the left foot of Brown with enough force that Cammy Bell could only help it into the net.
Kilmarnock's shot at parity came shortly after half-time. Jeroen Tesselaar's cross was perfect for Paul Heffernan, but the Irishman took too long to shoot and Charlie Mulgrew cleared. That miss soon became a detail.
Some great interplay between Lassad and Victor Wanyama led to Brown rolling the ball across goal for Ledley to tuck in from close range, and soon Celtic were playing 'ole' football. Every outfield player got a touch of the ball in a phase of play which lasted for minutes before some more fine work from Brown played in Matthews, whose cross was perfect for Samaras at the far post, the Greek's header going in off the underside of the bar. Beram Kayal and Efetobore Ambrose almost added a fourth before Cillian Sheridan got his second in two games against his former club, from close range.
So upset was Fraser Forster about the loss of his clean sheet bonus that he was booked for kicking away the ball in disgust.