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SCOTT BROWN believes Celtic must quickly find a replacement for Robbie Keane if they want to win back the title next term.

The Parkhead skipper insists recruiting a 30-goals-a-season striker is a bigger and more immediate priority than the appointment of a new manager.

Keane helped himself to pounds 65,000 a week and a rapid-fire 16 goals in just 19 games after signing on loan from Spurs in January.

But with the Irish international returning to White Hart Lane at the end of a trophy-less campaign there remains a huge void to be filled in the Celtic front line.

Marc-Antoine Fortune and Georgios Samaras proved they were not up to the task and managed just 10 goals apiece in the SPL, while Morten Rasmussen spent the majority of his time on the subs' bench.

That's why Brown is urging the Parkhead powerbrokers to recruit a top-class forward capable of filling Keane's shoes.

He said: "Robbie is a top-class player. He has pretty much everything and that's why he is playing in the Premiership with Tottenham.

"For us to try and replace him this summer is going to be hard.

"There's no doubt he's one of the best strikers I've played with. His movement is just frightening. He comes short or goes long and while he may not be the quickest in the world, he can certainly think quicker than anyone else.


"His sharpness is simply phenomenal and as long as you are on his wavelength he will score goals. That was shown in the last couple of months of the season."

Brown was gutted to see Keane head back down south after his five-month stint in Glasgow.

And he is convinced Celtic would have run rivals Rangers close in the championship race if he'd been around at the start of what turned out to be a disastrous campaign.

He said: "It's a shame he's away now but that's football.

"You get players who come in and if you get time to play with them and understand them it makes you a better player as well.

"Robbie was a great lad about the dressing room and as an older and experienced pro you always listened to what he had to say.

"He would easily have been top scorer if he'd played the full season. He will go back to England and score goals because he is capable of doing it at all levels.

"It will be difficult to replace him because he also creates space for other people.

"We struggled to score goals early doors in the season but our all-round play wasn't good enough either.

"I'm not sure whether it was confidence or something wasn't there but we didn't seem to click into gear."

Celtic have already made moves to recruit Scunthorpe's pounds 2.5million-rated hitman Gary Hooper as they bid to rebuild for next season.

But Brown - who is keen to see some older heads brought in to supplement the current squad - is convinced the club will be able to push the boat out and attract the type of marquee acquisition the supporters are demanding.

He said: "We are a big club and the bigger the better for us. I think we could achieve a lot with players such as Robbie Keane in the side.

"We have just lacked that little bit of experience over the past couple of years.

"We are fed up being known as the unlucky ones and if we get a few older players in we will be flying because we have talent here already.

"British players help particularly in Old Firm games - but players such as Henrik Larsson didn't do too badly."

While new targets continue to be identified, Celtic remain in a state of limbo with no announcement on the identity of their next manager. Brown is keen for Neil Lennon to get the gig on a permanent basis after leading the club to eight wins in nine games at the tail end of the season.

But with an elongated summer break - the longest in SPL history, due to the World Cup - the Hoops captain feels there is no need to panic.

The Scotland midfield player is also unperturbed by the fact Rangers have ended the uncertainty across the city by confirming their management team for next term.


Brown said: "The quicker the better for us. At least we would know where we stand if someone is in charge.

"I think Neil deserves to get the job because he won eight league games in a row and made a difference.

"I don't think it makes a difference that Rangers have sorted out their manager.

"I'm sure we will find out before the start of the season. We have three months yet so we have plenty of time."

Despite their managerial situation Celtic are also in negotiations with Nancy to make Landry Ng uemo's switch from France permanent. The Cameroon international eventually dovetailed well with Brown in the engine room after a difficult start to life in Glasgow and his midfield partner is anxious to continue the partnership.

Brown said: "In the last eight or nine games he was flying. He's good at getting on the ball and keeping it simple.

"He manages to break teams down. He is a good player and a fit lad and complements the way I play.

"He lets me go forward more although he also has a great engine. I think we did well together."

As Brown gears up for his summer holidays and the prospect of watching the World Cup from afar, a big part of him wishes he was joining Nguemo in South Africa.

He added: "It does hit home that we are missing out again. Every Scotland fan is devastated we are not there and so are the players.

"It will be hard to watch on television yet again but hopefully our time will come again soon."

CELTIC star Scott Brown is stripped for action as he launches the new Parkhead kit that sports a white collar and new black detailing.


LOAN STAR: Spurs striker Keano will be hard to replace now the 16-goal hero has headed back to White Hart Lane
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 27, 2010
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