There will be no changing of the guard any time soon. No removal of Scottish football’s lynchpin from his hundred mile-high pedestal. Pretenders to his throne haven’t even earned the position of clown prince – they will have to earn the right to lace his boots before they can fill them. He is the country’s ultimate midfield dynamo and captain fantastic… the ringleader of the tormentors.
His name adorns the hoops in gold leaf, and it is through a golden haze that today’s Celtic supporters will look back on the life and times of Scott Brown.
Those who bemoan the lack of Scottish football ‘hard men’ in one breath seem happy to decry the quality of our game in the next. Brown’s performances, particularly under Brendan Rodgers, have unequivocally demonstrated that he is infinitely more than Celtic’s on-call clubber. That description is lazy journalism, petulant Leveinism, and does the player a massive disservice (his last red card for club or country was 55 games ago).
Sure, many have vowed to go toe-to-toe with Celtic’s midfield general. English football’s soi-disant philosopher, Joey Barton, was rendered a rudderless, empty vessel after a single steely-eyed stare. The one-cap wonder was last seen twitching periodically, whilst scuttling out of Auchenhowie clutching on to a Dolce Gusto.
Before him there was the bloviating challenge of sneering, spitting, Senegalese El Hadji Diouf. This article (copyright: Phil Differ, 2017) had the audacity to return to Celtic Park having once grogged on one of Brown’s fellow Fife natives during a match between Celtic and Liverpool. The death of this circus was swift, and it gave birth to Celtic’s very own Cristo Redentor.
‘The Broony’ – as Celtic fans prefer to call it – and his more recent Pittodrie swagger have only served to endear the player even further into the hearts of a fan base that he wasn’t part of as a youngster. Word around family and friends in Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay is that he was a bonafide Hibbee in his younger days.
A former Leith lodger of then Hibs’ team-mate Kevin Thomson – a rambunctious affair by all accounts – Brown was part of a generation when every Easter Road egg that was laid had a golden hue. The list is startling: Derek Riordan, Steven Fletcher, Garry O’Connor, Steven Whittaker, and the aforementioned Thomson. Yet, Brown has gone on to win far more international caps and trophies than any of his impressive list of contemporaries.
On the subject of honours won, anyone with a suspicion that the author of this piece is intoxicated with hagiography, should take a glance at Brown’s personal roll-call: 15 major domestic gongs (one with Hibs); 55 international caps; over 450 appearances for Celtic (including most European games for the club); second only to Billy McNeill in the list of most trophies won as Celtic captain; and (if you will allow me the presumption) only the second Celtic captain to lead his team to seven consecutive league titles.
If Brown’s two seasons with Ronnie Deila will be harshly remembered for kebab-gate, then his subsequent two years under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers have had the hint of ‘abrakebabra’ about them.
Rodgers has hailed his on-field colonel as, “a remarkable leader,” and this was never more evident than in the recent Glasgow Derby at Ibrox. The requiem writers, those ravenous few who continue to write-off Scott Brown, should look back at the footage of his focussed gaze during Celtic’s pre-match huddle. Hanging on every word, his team-mates implicitly trust their leader, who has done more than most to ensure that the club have recaptured their rapture over the last two seasons. No-one in Scotland inspires and influences his onfield compatriots as much as Brown.
At 2-1 down against Rangers, observe the crucial pass to Dembélé that dragged his side back on level terms for the second time in the game. If the same through-ball was screened on Match of the Day, the commentators would benchmark it with the superlatives it deserved. In the week following this performance, I heard Brown’s assist being described by one of our own hacks as a “punt”.
Before Šimunović had even left the field of play following his sending-off, notice how Brendan Rodgers swiftly and succinctly instructed his captain. Brown’s overall performance was demonstrative of a man at the peak of his powers.
After the final whistle, his embrace with captain’s apprentice, Kieran Tierney, was followed by another iconic Brown moment when he adorned a pair of shades, which had been thrown from the crowd as he celebrated in front of the Broomloan Stand. In summing up the noise being generated from Ibrox in the week leading up to this victory, Brown retorted, “We usually do our talking on the Park.”
It would better suit many managers within Scottish football to follow Scott Brown’s example, and keep a far more dignified counsel.
The condemnation of Brown for the part he played in the sending-off of Motherwell’s Cédric Kipré in March was nothing short of ludicrous. Three opposing managers (Pedro Caixinha, Craig Levein and Stephen Robinson) have now felt an entitlement to personally take Celtic’s captain to task this season. It would seem that Brown is fair game.
Instead of discussing the stupidity of Kipré for kicking out at the Celtic captain before seeing red, Sky Sports’ co-commentator twice called Brown’s reaction, “Pathetic.” Back in the studio at half-time, serial big-match bottler, Derek McIness, felt it necessary to twice call the referee’s decision, “An injustice.”
McIness would do well to refer to Kipré’s potentially leg-breaking tackle on Moussa Dembélé in this season’s League Cup final, and Ryan Bowman’s horrific stamp on Kieran Tierney’s knee last season – both of which were deemed acceptable – before entering into a discussion on the realms of demanding justice.
Despite a disappointing scoreless draw at Fir Park that afternoon, Celtic are still on track for a historic double treble. Although this feat is by no means guaranteed, the manner of Scott Brown’s riposte to the deluge of criticism he will undoubtedly receive in the aftermath of this most recent flashpoint certainly will be – he will do his talking on the pitch.
33 years-old in June, Scott Brown will enjoy what is a real rarity in this modern age at Celtic Football Club – a testimonial match.
Brown has also been involved in coaching youth players at Lennoxtown, and his transition into the coaching setup at Celtic Park would continue the club’s return to their famous boot-room days of old. If this materialises in the coming years, then Brown would be joining several ex-Celts behind-the-scenes, including Shaun Maloney, John Kennedy, Danny McGrain, John Clark and Tosh McKinlay.
Brown, though, will only be happy to hang up his captain’s armband once Celtic’s run of consecutive league titles has eclipsed the Scottish record of nine. If he can achieve that over the next three years then I’d challenge anyone to argue that Scott Brown is anything less than Scottish football’s poster boy for meritocracy.