CELTIC’S frailties at set pieces this season have proved costly and were to blame for them losing 1-0 to Ross County up in Dingwall on Sunday in what proved to be Neil Lennon’s final match as manager.

But Scott Brown, who was one of the players who failed to deal with the Harry Paton free-kick that Jordan White headed home in the second half-half of the Premiership game in the Highlands, had little difficulty leaping to the defence of John Kennedy yesterday.

Kennedy, who was put in temporary charge of the first team until the end of the 2020/21 campaign on Wednesday, has been savaged by some supporters this season as a result of the Parkhead club’s dire displays at the back.

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The former Scotland centre half is one of the contenders to replace Lennon on a permanent basis this summer. After their woeful campaign, the prospect of him taking over isn’t an appealing one for many fans. They believe it is time for a complete clearout and change of direction. 

Brown, though, feels the criticism of the assistant has been completely unjustified. He is happy his compatriot has stepped up and filled the considerable void left by the man who secured the quadruple treble back in December.

He is confident the 37-year-old, who helped to bring through Kieran Tierney during his time as a youth coach at Lennoxtown, has all the qualities and knowledge needed to become a top manager in the future.   

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“We’re lucky that John is still here as he knows all the lads inside out,” he said. “He’s been here long enough so he knows what the club is all about. He’s been taking a lot of the training sessions anyway. 

“It’s easy enough for everyone to get behind him. We’ve got to try and focus and get results again. That’s what John wants us to try and do. It’s not about him or anybody else. It’s about us altogether. 

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“When everything isn’t going so well it is always everyone’s fault. There is always a lot of blaming. But John has been fantastic for this club since I came here as a player and a staff member. His training is brilliant as is his dedication to the club.

“He is in here until eight o’clock most nights and he is working on all sorts of things. He has that drive to become a top quality manager and coach and he has been showing that week in, week out with Brendan (Rodgers) and Neil, both of whom out a lot of faith and a lot of trust in him.” 

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Brown added: “As a coach, John is the one I look up to. He sits and studies football, whether it is any league in the world. He watches, players, shapes and styles and tries to take the positives out of any situation.

“He is fantastic with the kids coming through, but he has also been fantastic with the first team players that have come through under Brendan and Neil. There are a lot of players out there who will be thanking John and Neil for pretty much everything that they have done.

“John has brought a lot of the young players through. He has nurtured them and he produced Kieran who is probably one of the best left backs in the world right now, to be perfectly honest. He has helped every single person at this club over the last eight or nine years that I have known him.” 

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Brown revealed that Kennedy has been responsible for more than just the Celtic defence since becoming assistant and stressed that he and all of his team mates must accept full responsibility for the goals they have conceded at home and abroad. 

“It is easy enough just because he was a defender as a coach to blame him for the set-plays,” he said. “John is not just a defensive coach. John takes attacking set-plays, shooting drills, he takes the midfielders, he takes defenders, he takes the strikers, he does everything.

“You can’t just give him the defensive one. We have to take the brunt for that. People can put you in shape, but it is the players who need to defend the ball, head the ball and clear the ball.” 

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