There was a silver lining for Billy McNeill after the failure to lead Celtic to 10 In A Row as he was carried shoulder-high around Hampden after lifting the 1975 Scottish Cup.
It was a fitting end to the legendary Lisbon Lion captain’s illustrious Parkhead career despite the blow of missing out on the much-coveted league to Rangers that season.
McNeill only announced to his team-mates that he would be retiring in the dressing room minutes before Jock Stein’s men went out and beat Airdrie 3-1 to lift the trophy.
Now, with Celtic’s second shot at 10 In A Row almost certain to end in a failure, it’s the kind of end Brown would surely settle for now if he hangs up his boots following this campaign.
Brown will still be 35 by the time of the Scottish Cup final on May 8 - the same age McNeill was when he retired and lifting the famous old trophy would see the current skipper draw level on 23 major honours for the club.
But while McNeill was a mainstay in his final season, Brown has been a bit-part. And contrast that image of McNeill being carried around a sun-kissed Hampden to Brown being shown a red card just five minutes after coming on in blizzard conditions in Livingston on Wednesday.
And there are no guarantees this season’s Scottish Cup will even be completed after the entire fourth round was postponed due to Covid-19 which has cast serious doubt on the tournament.
On current form, the Hoops will be doing well to go all the way to Hampden and Brown has work to do to regain his place in the starting XI given the form of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull.
But the midfielder will be determined to ensure that a Celtic career that started in an uninspiring scoreless draw against Kilmarnock at Parkhead 14 years ago doesn’t peter out.
Andy Lynch was one of the players who held McNeill aloft 46 years ago and while he knows Brown will be hoping for a silver send-off but knows the script doesn’t always go to plan.
And if it doesn’t and Celtic finish trophyless for the first time in a decade, the 69-year-old says it shouldn’t overshadow his legacy at the club.
Recalling that 1975 Scottish Cup final when Paul Wilson netted a double and Pat McCluskey was also on the scoresheet, Lynch told MailSport: “Billy McNeill was an icon so we were more determined than ever that he would be able to celebrate it as captain.
“Billy had won so many honours so it was a fitting end but professional football doesn’t always work out like that and if we didn’t win that cup final I’d like to think he would have been remembered for all the trophies he lifted.
“I would say the same for Scott Brown and if he doesn’t bow out on a high with the Scottish Cup - which now looks like their only realistic chance of silverware - then he’d reflect on what he has achieved rather than ending in disappointment.
“If that’s as good as it gets for him then he’s luckier than most. He’s had a great run and done well. I’m sorry but sentiment and football simply don’t go together.
“Billy played a big part to win that 1975 Scottish Cup final. It wasn’t a case of playing him in the hope of a winning send-off. Scott Brown, while I’m not saying his career is over or anything like that, is not as good as he has been.
“I’m not sure that’s why Celtic want to win the Scottish Cup but it might be why HE wants to win it. Knowing the competitor he is, there will be a desire within him to prove he is worthy of a place in the team and end on a high.
“If they have conceded the league, although maybe not publicly, then the pressure is on Celtic now to win the Scottish Cup.
“Scott will already be thinking of the next chapter in his career. He will be thinking along the line of coaching if he’s not going to be starting every game.
“He’s been a great servant but he did a silly thing on Wednesday. I thought the red card was a wee bit soft but he lifted his hand and I don’t see him being there next season.
“Billy retired after that 1975 Scottish Cup final and years later he told me he felt it was premature. But he was influenced by Big Jock who felt it was the best bet and given their relationship you would listen to your manager.
“The experience he had, his reading of the game was superb, and he was the best header of the ball of any player I played with or against. He was mobile, he was fit, and I was interested to hear him say years later he felt he should have continued.
“He was still a fantastic player and when we beat Airdrie he was majestic. Airdrie were always tough and had a lot of good players and fancied their chances.
“They scored either side of man of the match Paul Wilson’s double. His mother died at the start of cup final week and some of the boys went to the funeral.
“Jock Stein offered him the chance to sit the game out. But he wanted to play as a tribute to his mother so it was very brave of him and it made it an emotional occasion all round with it also being Billy’s last game.”
Lynch admitted it’s been a catastrophic attempt to succeed where he failed in a bid to win 10 In A Row under Neil Lennon this season and questioned the commitment of some of the players.
He said: “There’s players in the team who don’t look like they’re willing to give everything. On Wednesday night the snow was coming down and they were playing against a Livingston side willing to battle for 90 minutes and some of your players don’t fancy it.
“That has been the case this season and ultimately it comes back to the manager. If he’s let it slip or let the players drop to 80 per cent then it comes back to the manager.
“Ismaili Soro and David Turnbull are two very good players and one of the few highlights in recent weeks but their performances have been overshadowed by the poor results.
“They play in Scott Brown’s position and I’d imagine they will continue if they stay fit but Scott Brown should still be remembered for the trophies he’s won rather than the disarray they have been in this season.
“Football can change so quickly and they are stumbling from one week to the next and in doing that losing credibility. It will be a hard time for Scott Brown as captain but there’s only so much he can do. But a lot of players at Parkhead need a right good shake.”