Scott Brown sends Celtic message to Callum McGregor after Hampden reunion as trophy counter sent into overdrive

Scott Brown grasped Celtic were facing immense challenges. But he knew his calm and composed old boss was up top leading the way.

And he was well aware two winning machines in Callum McGregor and James Forrest were on the ground to ensure Brendan Rodgers’ plans were carried out. It’s why the Parkhead icon never had any doubt those challenges would be overcome. As a player lifting trophy after trophy, Brown said he would trust Rodgers with his life and that he’d taught him to win.

With his Parkhead time up, there was no one outside of the dressing room who could relate more to what was going on inside during difficult periods of this past campaign. In the midst of back-to-back league defeats at the hands of Kilmarnock and Hearts in December, Brown’s belief in Rodgers and the squad didn’t waver. He said as much publicly. And, from his position on the TV gantry during Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final, the 38-year-old was proved 100 per cent correct in that analysis.

With the Premiership trophy already tucked away again following a fight down the run-in, Celtic’s second piece of silverware this season was added at the expense of Rangers again at the National Stadium in dramatic style. Challenges and issues posed to Rodgers plus his players were met head on as Brown said: “That’s football, you’re never going to get it all your own way. I never had any doubts.

“I told you all at the start of the season and I’m sure a couple of other people dived in and said it was never going to happen. Yet again, I was right!

“You’ve always got to have that belief and when you’ve got a manager who is calm and collected, is not erratic on the bench or in the press or to the players, then it brings calmness to the whole squad. That’s what you want in a top football club like this. It was an excellent performance from the lads to scrape a 1-0 win in a cup final. Sometimes you don’t always have to be at your best but you have to make sure you are switched on for 90 minutes.

“And that is what Brendan’s team always do. At the same time, the lads worked so hard and it is probably their 55th or 56th game of the season or whatever it is. So for the lads to continue... they looked a little bit tired at the end but they still grafted away and worked hard. You can see what it meant to all the fans and the players as well.”

As McGregor walked up the steps at Hampden to collect the trophy, he was greeted by a congratulatory Brown leaning over the gantry. With the latest honour secured, it takes the captain’s tally of trophies at the club to 22 and places him alongside his old skipper ahead of turning 31 next month.

Forrest has gone even further. With 24 medals in his cabinet following this season, the 32-year-old has leapfrogged Billy McNeill in the standings and now sits just one behind all-time leading Celtic winner Bobby Lennox. Brown won the large majority of his Hoops medals playing alongside the dynamic duo and reckons they are only going to keep adding to their tremendous personal tallies.

Mentioned that McGregor had drawn level with him in the honours list, Brown smiled and said: “He’s going to have a lot more, don’t worry about that! I’ve got belief in that. Same with James as well, he’ll keep continuing and keep going.

“I don’t know how many they have got but they will keep going and keep going. Even for Joe Hart to come in and win trebles and doubles, it’s been an exciting part of his career as well to come up at his age.

“I speak to all the lads and there is not one person who says a bad word about him. He’s a very humble person. He could have come up to Celtic and shown he was a big-time player. But he has been in that dressing room day in, day out, working hard. We had the young lad Josh on loan from Celtic and Josh couldn’t speak highly enough of him either.”

Brown’s reference was in regards to 19-year-old keeper Josh Clarke, who joined his Ayr squad in February for the remainder of a Championship campaign in which the Honest Men finished seventh. More Parkhead players will on show at Somerset on July 5 when Rodgers takes a team down the M77.

Celtic are to open Ayr’s new North Stand in a glamour friendly and hosting boss Brown said: “It’s brilliant what Brendan and the club have done to come along and help us out in that way – and even to help with Josh. That’s been exceptional.

“It will also give us a level to show the lads what it is to be champions, what it is to be mentally strong as well. It might not be the starting XI from the Cup Final who plays because a lot of them will still be at the Euros and stuff. But it will still be a strong Celtic team and I’ll be looking forward to it.”