CELTIC boss Neil Lennon MUST overlook skipper Scott Brown when he selects his line-up to face Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final on Sunday.
Frank McAvennie, the Hoops’ legendary goalscorer, is urging the Parkhead gaffer to ditch sentiment and play Ismaila Soro in the anchorman role in the Hampden showpiece showdown that could see the club complete an unprecedented quadruple treble.
The twelfth successive domestic honour is on the line when Lennon takes his team to the national stadium for the confrontation with the Edinburgh outfit who knocked out his former club Hibs in the semi-final.
McAvennie reckons the 22-year-old Ivorian midfielder, who made his debut in the 3-2 victory over Lille in the Europa League Group H game last week and kept his place in the 2-0 Premiership win over Kilmarnock at the weekend, should be a shoo-in for the big game.
Brown, who has won 21 honours in the hoops since Gordon Strachan paid the Easter Road club £4.4million for him, sat out both matches against the French outfit and Killie.
And McAvennie insisted Soro and Scotland Under-21 international David Turnbull should be certainties to figure against the Tynecastle team.
The former flamboyant hitman, the two-goal hero when Celtic beat Dundee United 2-1 in the club’s centenary year, told the Daily Record: “If Lenny changes the starting eleven and leaves Soro and Turnbull out and they end up losing he’s going to have lots of problems.
“And they’ll be self-inflicted because he doesn’t need to make changes.
“Nobody has a God-given right to play in a Cup Final. I know the captain, Brown, will be hurting that he hasn’t been playing, but Lenny needs to go with the boys who are in the team now, especially Soro and Turnbull.
“They’ve won two games in a row for the first time in months and he’s got to give them a run. The supporters are happy with them, they’ve given the side energy and enthusiasm – when these two boys lose the ball they immediately look to get it back.
“The players who’d been in before them hadn’t been doing that. Having competition for places is a good thing in sport and some of those Celtic players haven’t had that for a while.
“There are a lot of good players at Celtic but Soro likes doing the hard graft and Turnbull is the same. He has a bit of flair about him, too. Soro reminds me of N’Golo Kante or Dennis Wise, who was a nasty little sod, but did the hard graft.
“They work well and I’d be very surprised if he changed it. He can’t put them in for favouritism or for a last hurrah.
“The boys have got to win this on Sunday and that would send out the wrong message.
“I think some players thought they were guaranteed a place, but that’s not the case any more now these boys have come in. Soro and Turnbull have to play at Hampden this weekend.”
McAvennie, though, is convinced under-fire Lennon still has the qualities to turn the disgruntled support back in his favour.
He added: “The biggest problem Celtic fans have at the moment isn’t that Rangers are doing very well, it’s that Celtic aren’t doing anything and that’s the biggest fear for me as a Celtic supporter.
“If Rangers win the league, then so be it, but Celtic need to give them a fight. Don’t give them the title by not challenging them as nobody else is going to challenge them.
“Celtic have now won two games on the trot and they need to do something they’ve not done and that’s chase somebody. It WILL change for Celtic if they keep winning games.
“The fans go on about the board, but they need to remember that they’ve spent over £20million.
“So, who’s to blame for that and I have to say it’s been the recruitment. It’s not the board and it’s not the manager as I don’t believe Lenny’s bought these players.
“The recruitment, Nick Hammond, who I don’t know, it’s £5million for Albian Ajeti, £3.5m for Patryk Klimala and £4m for the keeper Vasilis Barkas. So, they’ve spent a bit of money. There have been a lot of things done wrong , but you need to look at the recruitment as it doesn’t all fall on Lenny’s shoulders.
“We all know that winning games can turn things and Lenny is the man at the moment. Winning games will change everybody’s attitude.”