Celtic captain Scott Brown feeling fresh as champions chase treble
Skipper Scott Brown highlighted the treble-chasing Celtic players' improved fitness as a key reason for their domestic dominance this season.
"We're a lot fitter than we ever have been, we're scoring more goals and we look like a right good team," said the Ladbrokes Player of the Season.
"We're closing people down and we're playing with a high intensity.
"Last season I was struggling with injuries and now I feel I can go for two, three or four seasons more."
The midfielder, 32 next month, has been a key player under Brendan Rodgers, the league sponsor's manager of the season, as the League Cup winners and Premiership champions seek to extend their unbeaten run of 45 domestic games to the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen on 27 May.
"I'm enjoying my football and playing with a smile on my face," said Brown, adding that the award was "thanks to all the players for digging me out a hole now and then".
"We check GPS and heart rates and make sure everybody is working hard.
"Against Partick, in the 91st minute I ended up on the left wing and trying to close the goalie down.
"That's never been seen before by me in the last five or six years. It shows I still have the energy and desire to keep going for 90-95 minutes.
"It's been enjoyable this season but it's been really hard, with dedication from everyone and the way the gaffer wants high intensity for 90 minutes."
Rodgers may make use of statistical data but he said it "can't measure the size of a player's heart".
He described Brown as "inspirational" and said that, should Celtic complete the treble, "it would be very fitting for a captain of his quality to do that".
"As a manager it's very important that you have that chemistry between you and your captain," continued the Celtic boss.
"It was pretty clear early on when I met him that he was top class in his outlook. He hasn't let up.
"He has been absolutely sensational in how he has led the team and how he's taken on the football idea that we've tried to impose on the team - his tactical positions to get on the ball, the variety so that he can move freely to create space for himself.
"He presses with a real aggression, he anticipates and he blocks and he doesn't need to be jumping in. That has been consistent, whether it's League Cup, the league or Champions League."
Rodgers revealed that he advised Brown last summer that if he looked after his fitness he could play until he was at least 35.
He said: "You have to ensure that everything about your life is perfect.
"He readjusted his diet, took on board everything we were looking to impose and that has given him confidence.
"He will run all day for you; it was just guiding that and making sure it was consistent. I look at his physical shape, he's in great condition - fit, strong.
"He has never let up in any day. I've given him a few extra days off through the season but he has never wanted it. Even in training, he brings intensity."