Scott Brown: Winning ugly can hold key to ten in a row
Celtic skipper says only points - not performances - count
There is a perception that Celtic, so far this season, have largely been a shadow of the side which has dominated Scottish football to an unprecedented degree in recent seasons.
It’s not an impression which is supported by statistics – for in racking up 19 points from their first seven Premiership fixtures, the Scottish champions have matched the tallies they recorded in each of their first two seasons under Brendan Rogers when they began to exert their current iron grip on domestic silverware.
Celtic have recovered from a turbulent start to the campaign in which Boli Bolingoli’s breach of Covid-19 protocol saw them have two games postponed while Rangers seized the early initiative in the title race.
Saturday’s 3-2 win at home to Livingston, coupled with Rangers’ 2-2 draw at Hibs the following day, now sees Celtic with the notional advantage of being just one point behind their Old Firm rivals with a game in hand.
Celtic captain Scott Brown accepts that he and his team-mates have yet to find their optimum form. But the midfielder, at the heart of every title-winning campaign in their nine-in-a-row run, knows that winning ugly can hold the key to their bid for a record-breaking tenth consecutive domestic crown.
“I don’t think we’ve hit top gear yet,” said Brown. “Sometimes you have to grind these games out and just get the results.
“You don’t worry about the performances at the end of the season – not if you’ve won the league. It’s all about points on the board, obviously.
“But we want to play better. We want to make sure we control games from start to finish a lot better. We don’t want to be defending a 3-2 lead for the last 15 minutes every week.
“Everyone has to understand that you won’t always be at your 100 per cent best. There are times when the level will slip.
“The team changes, some people might get rested, but it’s just about winning the games at the end of the day.
“Sometimes you just have to grind out the wins and get the results, especially away from home. There are times when you are under the cosh a bit but that’s when you need to be focused and well drilled in your formation. You need to be at it defensively and in attack but that’s what the manager wants from us. He demands those high standards.
“We’re delighted to be back up there in the league table. We always had to take it just one game at a time.
“There was nothing we could do about the two games we missed as a team. But we’ve managed to win the first of them, beating St Mirren in a hard game – and then getting another three points against Livingston.
“There is a lot of pressure on us all the time. People just expect us to win every single game. But it’s always hard work and we’ve done extremely well, especially against Livingston at the weekend there.
“You go a goal down two games in a row but the fighting spirit we showed to come back, to create that gap between us and Livingston and make it 3-1 was great. They then scored a great goal to make it 3-2.
“We definitely have to show the same desire in every game, try to win every game and put in good performances.
“There might be some stop-starts along the way because of Covid but we have to deal with that. I think everyone’s going to have to deal with it. It’s a difficult situation for everyone, not just us playing football.”
Brown claims Celtic remain unconcerned by the progress of Rangers’ challenge to their supremacy but says there is no talk of ten-in-a-row within the champions’ dressing-room. “We talk about nine-in-a-row because we’ve done that. We talk about Livingston – because that was last weekend. But do we talk about ten? No. For us, it’s about doing the same as we’ve always done. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourselves or carried away.
“If you start looking at games and thinking, we’ve got a cup semi or final here, a big game there, it’s an easy treble.
“There’s no such thing as an easy treble. Things never go to plan. It’s about taking each game individually and that’s what makes these lads so strong.
“For us, we just concentrate on ourselves. We don’t worry about anyone else. I think that’s what every team does individually. They want the best out of each other and we will always do that. We aim to get success here every year and push the boundaries all the time, whether it’s pushing current players or bringing in others.
“The manager has brought in a lot of players and there have been changes in the team and formation. So it’s been great that we have been able to keep winning matches at the same time.
“We just concentrate on the game ahead. We don’t get too excited, don’t get too emotional.
“We play the game and focus on who we’re playing. That’s the big thing, not getting carried away with our form.
“If we keep winning games, all we know is we’ll keep a smile on everyone’s faces. We aim to do that for as long as we possibly can.”
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