NEIL Lennon is hoping to be given the job of revamping the Celtic team in the summer, and if given the nod, he says he will build his side around captain Scott Brown.
Lennon has won four of his first five games as interim manager, reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup and opening up a 13-point lead at the top of the Premiership with Sunday’s victory over Rangers.
Despite that instant success, Lennon believes that an overhaul of the Celtic team will be required in the close-season, but Brown’s importance to the club means that he will be at the heart of it.
The Celtic captain was at the centre of controversy in the Old Firm match at the weekend, being on the receiving end of an elbow from Alfredo Morelos that saw the Rangers striker sent off, being struck on the face by Ryan Kent, and then being involved in a fracas with Andy Halliday after angering his opponent by celebrating in front of the away end at the final whistle.
But when asked if he would build his team around Brown, Lennon said: “Absolutely. He is so integral to this club and this dressing room, on and off the field. He’s still fit as a fiddle.
“He is very experienced, he knows the psychology of these big games more than anybody, so you just leave him to it.
“If he walks on a tight line, then so be it. Some of us did. He knows the boundaries to work in and he played brilliantly again on Sunday. He is a great captain, a great leader and in games like that you really need him.
“I am really glad for everyone [he stayed], but for him especially. He has settled down and is playing some great football at the minute.
“Two or three months ago, there was all this self-doubt, all this uncertainty about his future. You could see that in his performances as well.”
He continued: “It is a rebuilding job [here]. No question about that. There is a lot of work that needs to be done.
“Hopefully, with the lead that we have, we can start to plan a little bit more and be a little more forceful on it.
“It was a rebuild [in 2005] and I think we need a bit of rebuild again. It is reminiscent.”
Lennon has so far resisted the urge to make sweeping changes to the set-up that worked so well for predecessor Brendan Rodgers, and while it is still getting results for the champions, Lennon hinted there are aspects of their play that have persuaded him changes are required over the longer term.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “I haven’t done it. I’ve just been softly softly.
“During the [Rangers] game, I was thinking: If this ends up 1-1, I am going to be changing a lot of things. Or doing a lot more things my way.
“But we got over the line. Maybe we can implement a bit more of what I want to do and how I want to play going into the final games, but there’s nothing really broken, so not much to fix.
“It’s really difficult [balancing act]. It’s a style of play that they are used to and it’s a different style of play from what I’ve been used to. However, it works, and you can’t change it overnight, anyway.
“You can implement little things, but there were aspects of the game on Sunday in the second-half that I wasn’t happy with in terms of managing the game. We should have done that a lot better.”