BRENDAN RODGERS has given Scott Brown a massive vote of confidence.
The new Celtic boss believes the midfield man remains a vital part of the squad he inherited from Ronny Deila.
And the Irishman confirmed that Brown will continue as captain.
The 30-year-old had a disappointing season as Celtic won their fifth Premiership title in a row.
His lack of mobility was in contrast to the explosive bursts of pace that made him so effective earlier in his career.
Brown eventually admitted that tendonitis in both hamstrings restricted his ability to get around the pitch.
He decided to miss Scotland’s end-of-season friendlies against Italy and France to rest his aching limbs.
There have been doubts – many of them voiced by Celtic supporters – about Brown’s ability to recapture his form.
Brendan Rodgers is not among the doubters.
He cites the example of Steven Gerrard as someone who was prematurely written off.
He said: “I saw Scott at Hibs as a young player and I thought he was a great athlete, very mobile and competitive.
“He came to Celtic and is a real warrior. He’s up for every single game.
“Towards the end of the season he was maybe hit a little bit by injury. But he’s 30 years of age and I think he’s still got his best years ahead of him.
“When I went to Liverpool Steven Gerrard was 32.
“There was talk that his best days were maybe gone but Steven went on for the next two years and was brilliant for me.
“He was a great leader and nearly went on to pick up the title. His performance level went up.
“I’ve obviously come across Scott in some friendly games and I’ve always been impressed with him.
“I’m sure he can be a really big help for me.
“It’s important to have leaders in the dressing room.
“I had a group of players at Liverpool who were important for me in that capacity – Gerrard, Suarez, Carragher, Agger and Pepe Reina.
“Whenever I wasn’t there, they looked out for us and that’s important.
Rodgers hasn’t yet met Brown, but when asked if he will remain as skipper, his response was: “Yes, 150%”.
There may, however, be a different role for the captain.
He went on: “I look at the individuals and see where I can help them improve and where they can develop.
“I’ll have a good chat with Scott and take it from there.
“There’s a way of working and a way of playing that I want to bring in here, with flexibility and tactical ideas based around the players.”
While Ronny Deila seemed a little bemused by the frenzy that surrounds Old Firm teams, Rodgers arrives with his eyes wide open.
Knowing how tense things can become, does he have any fears of becoming embroiled in the nastiness that often surrounded fellow Northern Irishman, Neil Lennon?
“None whatsoever,” he said.
“We’re different people. We’re different men.
“Neil’s a good man. He has a passion for football and a passion for Celtic, but we’re different characters.”
Rodgers is looking forward to his first game against Rangers – a fixture he has never attended.
Liverpool is a city with a great footballing rivalry. But in Glasgow, Rodgers expects to experience even greater fervour.
He said: “There are parallels but this is different. This is family. This is blood. This is Gallacher, Johnstone, McGrain.
“I loved my time at Liverpool.
“To go there as manager at 39 was brilliant for me.
“It has created a great platform for me coming here.
“I may be young as manager, but I have quite a bit of experience and, hopefully, Celtic can benefit from that.”
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