CHRIS SUTTON has told Celtic fans to enjoy the presence of 34-year-old skipper Scott Brown while they can.
The former Hoops striker insists the champions will sorely miss the influence and driving force of the midfield dynamo when he eventually calls time on his glittering, trophy-laden career.
Sutton, though, has recognised two such kindred spirits he believes could take over the mantle when Brown steps aside – Christopher Jullien, Neil Lennon’s £7million buy from Toulouse in the summer, and Callum McGregor, the midfielder who is emerging as a genuine leader.
Sutton, in his Daily Record column, states: “Scott Brown is a one-off. There is not another one and there won’t be when he is gone.
BY THE RIGHT…Scott Brown slams in one of his two goals in the 5-2 Betfred League Cup semi-final win over Hibs.
“It’s only in later years that people will really understand the influence that he has had on that dressing room for such a long period of time and the trophies he has won and medal haul tells the story.
“Brown can’t go on forever. There will come a day when he needs to be replaced long term and it might not be that far away.
“Short term, though, will be the concern for Neil Lennon. The skipper was sensible to self diagnose and come off in the second period against Copenhagen when he could feel he wasn’t quite right.”
The former Scotland international captain is struggling to be fit to face Kilmarnock in the Premiership at Parkhead tomorrow afternoon.
He has been a driving force in the 27 league encounters so far with the Parkhead men zeroing in on nine in a row.
CAPTAIN’S ROLE…Scott Brown holds aloft the newly-won League Cup in December.
And, while he has dominated in the engine room for the team, he still managed to pop up with the stoppage-time winner against Hamilton Accies in Glasgow on December 4 to turn one point into three.
Plus he thumped in a double as the holders saw off Hibs in the Betfred League Cup semi-final at Hampden on November 2 on their way to a 1-0 victory over Steven gerrard’s Ibrox outfit the following month for the club’s TENTH successive domestic honour.
Sutton commented: “Fearless Christopher Jullien was like a warrior at times in Copenhagen.
“It was a good sign for Neil Lennon because he needs as many characters as he can find at the moment going into the crucial run-in to the season.
“Lennon can’t just rely on Scott Brown to be the leader of men all of the time. The captain does an incredible job in pulling everyone together within the squad.
“However, the image of him limping off in the closing stages of the first leg tie against FC Copenhagen must have been a sobering sight for Lennon.”
PRIZE GUYS…Scott Brown and Callum McGregor after yet another silverware success.
The ex-£6million purchase from Chelsea by Martin O’Neill in the summer of 2000 continued: “The footballing ability is there within others, but is the influence? Is there another character who could step into the breach?
“Lennon will be hoping he doesn’t need to find out, but seeing Jullien play with the type of authority he exerted in Denmark will have been hugely encouraging.
“The French defender has never looked back since he had that starring performance at Ibrox against Rangers at the beginning of the season.
“Sure there’s been the odd moment, but, in the main, he’s developed into the sort of stopper you would expect to be getting when you shell out £7million.
“Jullien is brave. You could see that the other night when he was absolutely smashed in the face by a challenge and he recovered and responded in the ideal manner.
“He reads the game well and he made some vital interventions as he often does. The goals that he is managing to score down the other end of the field are just an added bonus.
“You can see that other players are responding to him now. He has a presence on the pitch and within the group which has been growing and developing since he signed.”
Sutton added: “Another one who could comfortably step forward is Callum McGregor.
TRES BIEN, JULLIEN…French defender Christopher Jullien turns away after netting the Betfred League Cup winner with compatriot Odsonne Edouard racing to congratulate him.
“Lennon has already stated that he sees the Scotland star as future captain material. He’s the natural heir to Brown and filled in splendidly last season when the skipper was out for a couple of months.
“McGregor has that respect from his colleagues which would make him an obvious choice to don the armband.
“In fairness, he doesn’t seem to lack a voice even when Brown is in the side. The pair of them work in tandem, but you would imagine he’d take-on even more responsibility were Brown to miss out at any point in future weeks.
“McGregor is a wonderful footballer with genuine technique to play at the highest level.
“He’s also a man now. Someone within the group who has earned the respect of his peers.”
McGregor is standing by to lead the team out against Killie tomorrow if Brown loses his fight to play.