JUDGING by the image painted of Scott Brown yesterday by his manager, Neil Lennon has bridled at accusations from Hearts midfielder Loic Damour that the Celtic captain is the ‘king of the league’ a little more than Brown has.

Following Celtic’s 2-0 win over his side at Tynecastle on Wednesday night, Damour launched a scathing attack on Brown, saying that the 33-year-old effectively refereed the game. Which Lennon suggests would have been news to Bobby Madden.

The Celtic boss dismissed Damour’s comments as the haverings of a sore loser, and went as far as to label the former Cardiff City man as ‘pathetic’, accusing the Hearts players as trying every dirty trick in the book to get the visiting skipper sent off.

“[Brown]’s fine; he’s wearing a toga and being fanned and fed grapes by a bevy of beauties,” joked Lennon.

“I only just heard what was said about him and the comments are ridiculous. It’s pathetic, actually.

“There were a lot of things going on at Tynecastle. Scott was on a booking and they were doing all they could to get him sent off. I thought he kept his discipline brilliantly.

“I wasn’t overly enamoured with Bobby Madden’s performance that night but he is a top referee and Browny doesn’t referee these games, the officials do.

“It’s a ludicrous comment from a player who’s probably been in Scotland for about three months. I thought Browny was fantastic in that second half. We’d told him to be careful because he has been cautioned but he was majestic, if you’ll pardon the use of that word. He’s been outstanding all season.

“Look, it just doesn’t happen in football that players make the big calls. Browny doesn’t influence referees – he influences matches through his play and his reading of the game.

“He was booked for a challenge against Hearts, which is fine, that’s allowed. But there was a lot going on, which you expect at Tynecastle; it was like going back to the old days because it was feisty and physical and a lot of their players were hardly angelic.”

Lennon says that the level of discussion between Brown and Madden on the night was perfectly normal for any captain and an official.

“Making points to the referee is part of a captain’s job; I used to do it all the time,” he said.

“But Bobby Madden’s as strong as they come, and he won’t be influenced by players.

“Browny wasn’t barking at him all the time the way I used to be – we’ve moved on from that now.

“In the main, our players are impeccable when it comes to discipline.”

In that regard, Lennon says that Brown’s reputation precedes him somewhat, but he hopes that opposition supporters continue to target his midfielder as it drives him on.

“People have a premeditated perception of Scott before a game even starts and we’ve all been through that,” he said. “But I think he’s playing as well as ever.

“He enjoys being on the edge after having been booked and it takes away the pressure from the other players. He’s very good at that and, to be honest, I’ve rarely seen him lose his temper since I came back. He hasn’t been sent off and I don’t recall any bad challenges from him.

“There’s been a bit of giving it back after games, but I think he’s entitled to do that sometimes.”

Lennon will be without Jonny Hayes for today’s visit of Aberdeen to Celtic Park, with the auxiliary left-back aggravating his shoulder injury yet again in the win over Hearts.

The Celtic manager admits that will be a blow, as he revealed that contract talks have begun with a view to keeping Hayes at the club next season.

“Hayes has been great for me, whatever position he’s asked to play in,” he said.

“He’s played in a lot of big, high-pressure games and he’s been one of the better players in some of them.

“He can be under-rated and goes under the radar at times but he does a fine job and his fitness levels are incredible for a 32-year-old – he brings pace and power to the team, which we like.

“Offering him a new contract is something we’re looking at and we’ve held tentative talks with his representatives; he’s one I’d definitely like to hold on to.

“He brings certain qualities to us; he’s direct, he’s quick and he delivers an end product with his crosses.

“He didn’t come here as a left-back but he’s played against Rangers, in cup semi-finals and in Rome and was excellent. He does a really good job for me and in any physical examinations we have, he’s right up there at the top.”

Boli Bolingoli will make a timely return to the side though along with Mikey Johnston, although Mohammed Elyounoussi and Hatem Elhamed remain sidelines.

“It’s doubtful if those two will make the 29th [against Rangers],” Lennon said. “Elhamed probably has a better chance than Elyounoussi.

“We’re hoping if Elhamed doesn’t make St Mirren, he’ll be fit for the Rangers game, but he’s been out for a while now so it will be difficult for him.

“We’ve got Jeremie (Frimpong) and we’ve got (Moritz) Bauer there as back-up too. We’re ok at centre-half too.

“(Jozo) Simunovic is back on the grass now doing a bit as well, so hopefully we’ll see him back fully fit in the New Year and the squad will be looking stronger again.”