THE early-season demands on Scott Brown at Celtic have increased incrementally over the last 12 years.

The midfielder only had to help the Parkhead club negotiate one qualifying round against Spartak Moscow to reach the Champions League group stages after he signed for them back in 2007. In his second season they didn’t have any at all.

In the forthcoming campaign, though, Neil Lennon’s men will need to get through no fewer than eight matches in order to secure a lucrative place in Europe’s premier club competition.

The physical and mental toll that will take on the player, who turns 34 next week, will be considerable. Is it any wonder so many people have been saying the end of his career at the highest level was imminent for so long now?

Yet, the Celtic captain and midfielder, who returned to training at Lennoxtown yesterday little over three weeks after helping them to win the William Hill Scottish Cup and complete a third consecutive treble, is accustomed to it now. He insisted the younger generation struggle to cope with the lack of downtime more than he does.

“I enjoy coming back,” he said ahead of the draw for the Champions League first and second qualifying rounds in Nyon this afternoon. “I’ve got used to two or three weeks’ holiday. It becomes natural. You kick on and continue the season. I’ve just got to make sure I’m fit for the qualifiers.

“It’s always harder for the new ones when they come in for their first season. They come in and are like ‘two or three weeks holiday? We should be getting eight’.

“When I first signed we had the one qualifier against Spartak Moscow which we won and we got in. In the second season went straight into the group stages of the Champions League. We automatically didn’t have those qualifiers.

“After that it gradually got up to four games to get there. Maybe it’s me? Maybe they don’t want me in the Champions League!

“Seriously, though, it’s football now, Scottish football, as it seems to be because our seeding level isn’t as good as what it used to be. We’ve got to deal with the four qualifying rounds until UEFA change their mind.”

Celtic can be drawn to face Valletta of Malta, Sarajevo of Bosnia, Sutjeska Niksic of Montenegro, Partizani Tirana of Albania or Saburtalo Tbilisi of Georgia in the draw today.

Brown, who will lead Celtic out in the first leg of their first qualifying round on either July 9 or 10, is unconcerned about who they have to face.

But he knows from bitter personal experience that they must take the threat they pose seriously. Losing 1-0 to part-time minnows Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar in Brendan Rodgers’ first game as manager was a traumatic experience.

“We’ve been everywhere, so, at this stage, it doesn’t really matter who we get,” he said. “It would be great to have someone local, but I don’t think that will ever happen.

“You always have to think about Gibraltar. Everyone thought we’d just go there and win 5-0 or 6-0 and it would be nice and easy, but we played in 35 degrees during the day on possibly the worst pitch I’ve ever played on. You always have to make sure you respect your opponent and do your background work.”

Brown was firmly behind Celtic’s decision to give Lennon the manager’s job on a full-time basis despite the decidedly cool reaction the appointment got among an element of the support. He believes the Northern Irishman is well placed to deal with the qualifiers having done so before in his first spell and feels his knowledge of the players will prove beneficial. The fact that no new signings have been made is not a concern.

He recalls how Lennon’s men recovered from losing 2-0 away from home against Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan in 2013 by winning their return leg 3-0 after extra-time to progress to the group stages.

“Virgil (van Dijk) played the first half then he didn’t play the second game, he got dropped,” he said. “That was what we obviously had to do!

“The manager has been phenomenal. I know him. I trust him with my life, especially going into big games where you have to battle.”

Celtic are giving season ticket holders the chance to have their picture taken with all three of the trophies they won last season today, tomorrow and on Thursday between 3.30pm and 9pm and between Monday and Wednesday next week at the same time.

Season ticket holders should visit and follow the online booking instructions to secure their place.