GIVEN that opposition players routinely reference the Celtic Park crowd in their post-match interviews as a factor that has figured in them losing there, it stands to reason that Celtic themselves may suffer more than most when that advantage is denied to them once the season kicks off.

Indeed, even when they go on the road, the Celtic support often outnumbers the home contingent, and Scott Brown isn’t about to deny that the team are going to miss the incredible backing they enjoy wherever they go when the season kicks off behind closed doors next month.

The Celtic captain though has challenged his teammates to overcome that handicap, and find the motivation within themselves that normally comes from the stands in order to get off to a flying start in their quest for a tenth title in a row.

“It’s going to be something that we’re not really used to,” Brown told Celtic TV. “Even some of the friendlies we play at the start of the season when we go away somewhere, there are always fans that follow us on the pre-season tournaments.

“It’s going to be difficult for everybody, but the main thing for us is that we just keep doing what we do, whether that’s at Celtic Park or anywhere else. We press up the park, we use our energy, and we feel that when we turn up, we’re fitter than most teams. That shows and we can keep going for 90 minutes.

“[Getting back to training] has been huge for everyone. We all wanted to play games and finish the season off, but because of the virus we had to make sure everyone was safe, and we did what was best.

“Now though we are getting back into it, and looking at the 11 v 11s we are playing, everybody wants to win. That’s why people come to Celtic, you want to win the trophies, you want to win every single match.

“That’s what the fans expect from you as well, especially at Celtic Park when it’s nil-nil 15 or 20 minutes into the game. They expect us to be two or three nothing up, so they are the ones that drive us. Now, we’ve got to make sure we drive ourselves and we work as hard as we possibly can until we can get the fans back into the stadium.

“We’ve been sitting down and speaking about that in the last week, and all the lads know what to expect.

“When we’ve been playing the closed doors games against each other here, it’s all been about working as hard as you can and making sure your stats are as high as they can be as well.

“Football is all based on running. You get two minutes on the ball all game, so if you’re not fit and you’re not sharp, then it’s extremely hard to keep up with the rest of the lads.

“Everyone pushes each other as well. Our main focus is to be as fit and sharp as we possibly can for the first game of the season.”

On the subject of physical fitness, Brown says the Celtic players were inspired to keep up their punishing lockdown routine simply by the desire to best each other when it came to their times over 5k, and even at this advanced stage of his career, he bristles slightly when he mentions the fact he didn’t finish at the top of the pile.

With that work in the bank though, he has savoured getting the football sharpness back into his legs during Celtic’s pre-season trip to Loughborough this week, legs he thought might have been creaking a little more at this point given his veteran status.

“I was a bit nervous turning up at 35!” he joked. “But we’re all on the Strava app and we all keep up to date with one another, so you see what the lads are doing, how far they’ve been running, and you see their times as well.

“We had a competition every Friday. We had sessions on a Monday, Tuesday and a Thursday, and then you had a 5k on a Friday, and it was a competition to see who got the best time.

“All of the lads are very competitive. Wee Greg (Taylor) managed to win that overall, but there was a lot of good times that the lads put in.

“It’s ok doing the running on your own or doing the running five metres away from each other as we did when we first came in [though]. That’s ok and everyone ticks over, but it’s when the ball is at your feet. You need to get that little bit of energy and sharpness back as well.

“These friendlies and bounce games we are having will be good for us as well, because it’s going to get that match sharpness back. You’ll get to know which of your teammates have been working hard in the last 12 weeks, who the fitter ones are and who are the ones who can keep it up.

“We’re pretty much going to training, coming back for a chat, sleeping then going back into training, and that’s been ideal.

“It’s been my routine for the last 16 or 17 years, so you enjoy it, and you enjoy getting around the other lads as well and getting a bit of craic too.”