IN a week when a DVD entitled ‘Captain - Leader - Legend’ was released to commemorate the outstanding service that Celtic skipper Scott Brown has given to the club over the last decade, there is little room for argument that whoever is next to pull on the armband has some pretty big boots to fill.

Neil Lennon believes though that in Callum McGregor, the natural successor to ‘Broony’, when he eventually retires, is already in situ at Celtic Park.

The midfielder took over the duty on Wednesday night when Brown limped off nursing a tight muscle in his leg, and he will do so once more this evening should Brown fail to recover in time for the Betfred Cup semi-final against Hibernian at Hampden.


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And when it comes time for Brown to hand the armband over permanently, Lennon sees no better man suited to slipping it on than his midfield partner.

“I would have no qualms handing Callum the armband,” Lennon said. “I see him as a natural successor to Broony in that regard, when the time comes.

“His performance levels over the years have been so consistent and he’s playing as well as ever at the minute.

“We have two or three captains in that dressing room. (Chris) Jullien could do it, (Kris) Ajer takes responsibility, James (Forrest) is a bit quieter and I don’t think he’d fancy it!

“But there’s a few who wouldn’t shy away from taking the armband.

“Callum’s consistency is not something I take for granted. People just expect him to be a seven or eight out of 10 every week. That’s not an easy thing to do and I admire him for it. I admire his professionalism because he’s playing at a really high level while there has been interest in him.

“When you are playing well you want to keep the momentum going, but I spoke to him on Tuesday, asking him if he wanted a wee break.

“But he said, ‘no, I want to keep going’. That was the answer I expected because when you are playing well you want to stay in the groove.”

One of the main reasons behind Celtic’s consistency as a whole has been a core of players including McGregor, Brown and James Forrest who have been churning out performances week after week for the cause.


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Two of that trio have now signed up to long-term deals, with Forrest’s four-year contract extension being signed and sealed during the week, and Lennon hopes that McGregor will soon follow suit.

“We’re talking to one or two players, so hopefully we can get those contracts over the line soon too,” he said.

“Callum is one of them, he’s an important player and it would be good to get him tied down too.

“It’s important to have your core, and the core players here have been outstanding for the last three seasons.

“Jamesy has been a fundamental part of that, as has Scott, and it just gives a feel-good factor to the club when you have boys committing themselves to the club on long-term contracts.

“Kris Ajer is one we might look at. He’s played nearly all the games since I’ve been in and I’m very happy with him as well.

“These players are obviously assets too, and there will be admirers out there, no question, with the way they are playing.

“So, it’s a bit of protection for us as well as settling down the players if they are getting agitated by a little bit of speculation.”

A more immediate concern for Lennon and Celtic is today’s meeting with Hibernian as they look to secure a seventh major final appearance in succession. Over and above that, a victory today would be their 30th consecutive win in domestic cup football, as they hunt their 10th domestic trophy in a row.


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The hunger to preserve those records is driving the Celtic players ahead of the game, and ensuring their focus isn’t affected by the prospect of the Europa League tie against Lazio in Rome that looms on the horizon next Thursday.

“You just bench Lazio completely and just focus on Hibs,” Lennon said. “This is the knockout phase now, so there is no comeback if you don’t play well and perform.

“The players know how important the game is. It’s part of the trebles they have won over the last three seasons and it’s a competition they’ve been brilliant in.

“The cup record is really important to them as well in both the competitions, so our whole motivation and focus is on Hibs and we’ll think about Lazio come Sunday.

“The more you win, the more hungry you get for it and the more you want to protect it.

“Anything can happen in knockout football and we have seen that in the past. Ronny (Deila) saw it, we’ve all seen it, Martin (O’Neill) and Gordon (Strachan) too.

“It’s an amazing record that Brendan (Rodgers) built the foundations for, and thankfully I’m picking it up as we go along.

“You never know if anyone will do this again, but you might not see it for a long, long time. It shows the consistency and the way they’ve played.

“People ask if complacency will be the biggest factor. It’s not. Hibs are the biggest factor that will stop us going through. They have decent players there, who I know.

“But I can only talk about what we’re doing. We’ve been playing brilliantly and want to keep the momentum going.”