Long after the final whistle, Scott Brown milked everything in. While other players came from Celtic Park, the outgoing captain and his children kicked a ball around the field of an almost empty stadium. This was an evening he did not want to end.
When a legend leaves the scene, there is usually no dry eye in the house. However, as Scotland prepares for a relaxation of Covid restrictions on Monday, there was nothing normal about this farewell for an iconic skipper.
After 14 silvery years, Scott Brown’s last home game as Celtic captain only reflected a strangely old season.
Celtic marked Scott Brown’s last appearance at Celtic Park with an emphatic victory
Celtic (4-3-3): Barkas 6, Kenny 6, Welsh 6, Ajer 7, Montgomery 6 (Taylor 63 3), Forrest 7 (Dembele 79), Brown 6 (Soro 63 4), Tunbull 7, Elyounoussi 6 (Johnston 73 4), Christie 6, Edouard 7 (Griffiths 73 2)
Substitutes: Hazard, Griffiths, Ajeti, Johnston, Ralston, Dembele, Laxalt
St Johnstone (3-5-2): Zlamal 6, Kerr 6, McCart 6, Booth 6, Brown 6, Rooney 5, Gilmour 5 (Ferguson 83 2), Bryson 6, Conway 6 (Wotherspoon 75 2), Kane 6 (Robertson 90 1), Middleton 6 (Melamed 2 ))
Referee: Bobby Madden
After 63 minutes, he trotted to the side of the field, a grin on his face, to make way for Ismael Soro. The applause from supporters was limited to front rooms and couches. After 10 league titles and 12 domestic trophies, it felt like an unsatisfactory way to pull down the curtain.
Celtic did its best to make it a special night. The players took to the field with ‘Brown 8’ on the back of their tracksuit zippers. Before kick-off, there was a presentation to the captain of outgoing Chief Executive Peter Lawwell on the field. They gave him the man of the match award, when in reality he was far from the best player.
“It was pretty easy tonight,” admitted interm boss John Kennedy. Scott came out as captain at Celtic Park for the last time, so it was important that the team put in a performance that sent him off properly.
‘We knew he would come after 60 minutes to make changes at that point, that was part of the plan.
But the saddest part was that if this was Scott Brown’s game, the stadium would have been packed to the brim and they would have been singing his name throughout the game. That’s a shame, but that’s the world we live in now. ‘
As usual, the Ultras of the Green Brigade tried to make the night over themselves. In their usual section 118, a huge number eight was draped over the seats with Brown’s name above it. Gone – at the express instruction of the club – was a display of Palestinian flags that had slipped in at the same time.
Captain Brown joins the festivities after Odsonne Edouard doubled their advantage
Brown is unlikely to be the only departure this summer. Three of Celtic’s four goals came from Odsonne Edouard, Kris Ajer and Karamoko Dembele and all three have been tipped to leave.
A hugely close season of sales begins with the forthcoming appointment of a new manager.
No longer a Howe issue, the arrival of former Bournemouth manager Eddie in Glasgow is now considered a matter of when. New Chief Executive Dominic McKay will hold his first talks with supporter groups on Thursday and one question will dominate the agenda. What now for Celtic?
Ahead of a performance in the Scottish Cup final, St. Johnstone has their own concerns to deal with.
On Sunday, the Perth side braved the loss of two players to positive coronavirus tests – plus two more via track and trace – to secure a meeting with Hibs in Hampden for a week on Saturday. On Wednesday evening, a total of nine were missing as a result of the aftermath of the virus.
Brown released the Celtic attacker and Edouard lifted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper
Covid-19 aims to become the first team outside of the Old Firm to win two trophies in one season since Aberdeen in 1989-90, and still has the potential for chaos.
In the face of a crisis, emergency loan coverage was secured by Hearts in the form of Czech goalkeeper Zlamal.
Sensitive to an erratic moment, he scored two Celtic goals in a minute on his St Johnstone debut.
The first was a bizarre affair: the nervous one was shown a yellow card for picking up a passback in his home area to give the home team an indirect free kick sixteen yards away.
Ryan Christie tipped the ball to David Turnbull and the midfielder bolstered his late claim for a place on Steve Clarke’s Euro 2020 team next Wednesday by punching a effervescent low effort to make it double digits for the season.
Brown got a long hug from interm boss John Kennedy after he left in the 63rd minute
The home team immediately doubled their lead. Brown marked his last home game with an assist when he sent a raking diagonal high ball towards Odsonne Edouard.
Today semi-engaged, the Leicester City-bound Frenchman is still capable of moments of genius.
He produced another when he killed the ball with one touch, gave Shaun Rooney nutmeg and cut inside to make a stunning finish over Zlamal for 2-0 and his 22nd goal of the season. Celtic can only wonder how much he would have scored had he played at full speed.
The goals knocked the fill out of St Johnstone after a quick start. The opening semi-final score of Sunday’s cup win over St Mirren forward Chris Kane had two chances. The first saw him fail to make contact on the back post after James Brown had put down a cross from Glenn Middleton.
The second reminded Celtic followers of a rare and precious sight; save a Vasilis Barkas.
Brown takes his seat in the stands after being substituted during his last home game
Back in the starting eleven after a finger injury from Scott Bain, the Greek international reached out to prevent Kane from throwing the ball into the net after a quirky back pass from Jonjoe Kenny.
If Brown had given St. Johnstone a way back into the game, it might have taken the glow of the captain’s night away. Sacked by Craig Bryson 30 yards from his own goal, Glenn Middleton’s attempt was blocked, the ball broke to Craig Conway for a timely block by young left back Adam Montgomery on the line.
The youngster’s promising debut ended after 63 minutes. Brown also left the field, with a huge grin on his face. A long hug from interim boss John Kennedy is the only concession to sentimentality.
Brown smiled as he watched Celtic take an emphatic victory
Celtic’s third goal came with 11 minutes to play. Substitute Mikey Johnston passed the ball to Ajer, a heavily deviated shot from the side, which spun up from Gilmour’s shoe and over Zlamal for 3-0. The fourth scored a first senior goal four minutes before time after a corner finish for the late substitute Karamoko Dembele.
“There is a lot of speculation that Karamoko will be out of contract by the summer,” Kennedy said of the much-discussed child prodigy.
‘I don’t know where that came from, because he still has a year to go.
Karamoko is spoken of as the next superstar, but people are physically developing at different speeds.
“It’s not a symbolic gesture to play him, he’s been doing well in practice lately.”
Kristoffer Ajer scored the third goal with a strongly deflected shot above Zlamal