Murdo MacLeod has hailed Scott Brown as a Roy Aitken for the modern era, and predicted he and his fellow Celtic midfielders will be the difference in today’s Final.
Hoops’ skipper Brown was the toast of Celtic Park on Wednesday night after hitting a dramatic injury-time winner against Hamilton Accies.
And for MacLeod, who won five league titles, two Scottish Cups and one League Cup with the club in the late 1970s and ’80s, he is the focal point for a unit that is instrumental in helping the side sweep all before them.
“It is a really strong midfield,” said the 61-year-old, who scored the winner for the Hoops in their 2-1 1982 League Cup Final victory over Rangers.
“Ryan Christie (scorer of Celtic’s other goal against Accies) has been great and he is getting better all the time.
“Callum McGregor’s play is of a high standard and then, of course, you have Scott, who is starting to score a couple of goals, which is a bit unusual.
“That’s the best three to have in there, with Broony the main man. He is up there with all the greats.”
Now 34, and with over 350 appearances for Celtic under his belt, the retired Scotland internationalist has been paid the ultimate compliment of being likened to Lisbon Lions legend, Billy McNeill.
MacLeod doesn’t quibble with the comparison. However, the player from the past who comes into his mind when discussing Brown is his former team-mate Roy Aitken.
“Roy might not have been appreciated by everyone. But he was appreciated by the other 10 guys on the pitch,” said MacLeod.
“That was the most important thing.
“Scott Brown is the same on the pitch. Over the years when I have watched Celtic and Scott Brown has not been in the team, there has always been something missing.
“Whether it was someone to have a go at the players when they are not working hard enough, not going into challenges or whatever, Scott was always there dominating the midfield and having a go at his team-mates if they weren’t doing it.
“Every team needs a leader and when he is not there, a place has to be filled.
“Big Roy was the same. Although we were fortunate in that everyone was a shouter back then!
“We would have a go at each other, whereas in the modern era they don’t shout at each other because that’s not the way they play now.
“Scott Brown still does that and I think it helps.”
He will, MacLeod believes, be a huge influence on today’s showpiece.
“Rangers know full well that if they can win the League Cup, they will halt Celtic’s run and the atmosphere will be fantastic,” said the man who won 20 Scotland caps.
“But, even though their midfield is stronger this year, I still think Celtic have better quality and more pace in the middle of the park.
“Brown is the sitter but you have the other two boys in there and the likes of James Forrest joining in and adding great pace.
“Jonny Hayes has been getting more games, too, and he has very good pace.
“Watching the season’s first Old Firm game, I felt Celtic started much better and were the hungrier, running and chasing down people and all that.
“I always felt in my day that whoever started the game with the better attitude would generally win an Old Firm game.”