IN PRAISE OF SCOTT BROWN

I well remember where I was when I discovered that Scott Brown had signed for Celtic in the spring of 2007. I was in Center Parcs in Cumbria with the family. Junior was only three and we were in the middle of an idyllic break when my phone started bleeping like mad with texts that Scott Brown had announced he was joining the Celts. Like many others, I couldn’t quite believe it.

Up until that time it was generally regarded that Scott would sign for Rangers and join his Hi-Bee pal Kevin Thomson at Ibrox. It was a major shock when he arrived at Parkhead and quite a coup for Celtic to sign him as he was widely regarded as the finest young Scottish talent in the country.

The first couple of seasons didn’t quite go to plan. With a Scottish record £4.4M transfer fee hanging over him, Scott found it difficult to reproduce his Hibs form in the hoops. He had to cope emotionally with a personal tragedy within his family whilst on the park Gordon Strachan’s obsession with central midfielders (Donati, Jarosik, Hartley, Sno, Robson, Gravesen, Crosas) meant that there was no continuity in that area to build up an understanding.

The nadir of Scott’s career came in 2010 when Celtic lost to Ross County in the Scottish Cup semi final at Hampden. It’s still painful to recall Celtic’s inept performance that day. Before departing a few weeks previous to that match, Tony Mowbray had made Scott his captain and the new manager, Neil Lennon, had retained him in that position. Lennon then gutted Mowbray’s team but it was noticeable that he kept Scott as one of his main men. Had Lennon listened to the critics then Scott would have been out the door at Parkhead in the summer of 2010. There were a great number of critics and I should know as I was one the biggest.

Lennon’s belief in Scott was a huge help to him. His performances improved as team selection settled down. Perhaps the main turning point in his career was the incident with the immensely dislikeable El Hadji Diouf at Ibrox in March 2011. When Scott equalised for ten man Celtic after scoring a spectacular goal, he stood with arms aloft right in front of Diouf. ‘The Broony’ as we came to know it, was born that day.

A captain’s role in a team should never be underestimated and Scott has grown into a great Celtic leader. Listen to anyone who joins the club and they will tell you how Scott Brown makes them feel welcome and he has an infectious personality which rubs off on the other players around him. Scott Brown now has an on field presence and has developed into a great Celtic captain, statistically the best since the great Billy McNeill.

Since arriving at Parkhead in 2016 Brendan Rodgers has brought out even more in Scott. He was instrumental in the now legendary unbeaten treble season on 2016-17 and this year there have been times when Scott has carried the current team with his energetic drive and leadership. He has now grown into a Celtic legend with some of the incidents he gets involved in. The Joey Barton drop ball incident, and this season at Pittodrie when a thuggish tackle was literally laughed off in front of the TV cameras, being two cases in point.

It should also be noted that Scott Brown has set the record for most appearances for any Scottish player in European competitions. That is a tremendous achievement and is a record which may never be broken.

Scott now faces a terrific end to his season. After another imperious performance against Rangers in yesterday’s semi final at Hampden he must now be a certainty to pick up the player of the year awards which would be richly deserved and fully merited. Celtic will shortly make it seven leagues in a row and a victory over Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final will give the Celts an unprecedented record of back to back trebles. If that wasn’t enough then there is the small matter of his testimonial match against Ireland where he has generously donated the monies raised from that game to the family of the late Liam Miller.

There was a time when that £4.4m transfer fee hung heavily on Scott Brown’s shoulders, yet eleven years later in the current football financial climate, it looks more and more like a bargain buy with each passing season.

Thanks for the Celtic memories Scott and we all fervently hope that there are many more to come

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