SKIPPER Scott Brown MUST be offered a new contract to remain at Celtic.

A summer shake-up is coming the way of the Hoops where players will be coming and going, but Chris Sutton insists there has to be a place for the onfield leader who has led the club to 22 honours since he arrived from Hibs in 2007.

Gordon Strachan paid £4.4million – still a record fee between Scottish clubs – and the midfield powerhouse has repaid that fee over and over with his awesome performances and professionalism over the years.

Tony Mowbray, Neil Lennon, Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers have also managed the wholehearted character who is now admittedly in the twilight of his career.

But former goal hero Sutton still believes there is a place for Brown as the club prepare for the challenges that are in the future.

The one-time England international hitman, writing in his Daily Record column, stated: “Scott Brown must stay. Regardless of whether Celtic win or lose the race for 10 in a row.

“The captain was left out of the starting line-up for last weekend’s Old Firm game against Rangers.

“He’s been on the sidelines in other recent matches as Ismaila Soro has taken his place and really cemented a spot in the side.

“It all points to a career winding down. An inspirational skipper who is coming to the end of the road with a contract expiring at the end of the season.

“But I’ll tell you one thing. With so much uncertainty around Celtic and huge upheaval looming in the coming months, it would be crazy not to have Brown around that dressing room for 2021/22.

“I’m not saying he should be playing 20 or 25 games. It might only be five or 10. As he turns 36 years of age of June, it might not be any.

“But I still feel he needs to be there and there’s a reason for coming to this definitive conclusion.”

Sutton cited the uncertainty over the long-term Hoops futures of Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie while he acknowledged Odsonne Edouard is on his way.

Sutton asked: “Do we actually know for sure if Neil Lennon is going to be boss for the beginning of next season? Neil has been given the backing of Dermot Desmond and it remains his job.

“You’d imagine it may take a blistering second-half of the season with a success in the Scottish Cup at the very least to give him any real chance of extending his reign beyond this season.

“It’s doable, but unless you can say so for 100 per cent right now, it surely makes it tough to start plotting now for summer transfers, doesn’t it?

“Then you look at players and try to work out what Celtic need. That’s the sort of decisions you can only take when you know who really wants to stay.

“You’d want future skipper Callum McGregor at the heart of things and nothing we’ve seen in the past six weeks would suggest that Soro or David Turnbull aren’t worthy of places.

“James Forrest’s true value to this squad has only really become evident to some people in his long absence. He’s a gem and a must, as opposed to Mohamed Elyounoussi who hasn’t done enough thus far to warrant shelling out a big fee.

“Odsonne Edouard will be gone, so strikers are required. I’d keep Leigh Griffiths and make sure he worked every day of the summer to be at peak for the beginning of the 2021/22 campaign because, when fit, he’s a brilliant finisher.

“It goes without saying I believe a keeper is needed. Now, never mind the summer.”

Sutton added: “I don’t like using this example when Neil is in position, but, just for talking sake, say there is another manager. Brown can be his go-to man and get messages across. Look at how much Brendan Rodgers leant on him at the beginning.

“Alternatively, if there’s a raft of playing personnel changes and more new faces arrive into the club, he’s the one who beds them in and sets the examples.

“Leading from the front in training sessions and even in post-match fitness routines after he’s not played in the game, he’s a shining example to the rest. New players get to understand what it’s all about from him. They take a lead from him. He can be the glue to new pieces.

“Even if he barely kicked a ball next season, you look at what’s coming and feel that Brown simply needs to be offered a contract or a role and be there to assist with any transition.”

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