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 has appeared on Celtic team-sheets no fewer than 550 times and he has now climbed up to number 8 in the 500 Club, of which there are only 12 members – 12 of the ultimate Celts who have played 500 or more competitive games throughout the history of Scotland’s treble treble winners. 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, invigorated under the tutelage of 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 (he went 100 games without a red card before being ordered off against Kilmarnock on 17 February 2019).Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
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 in Glasgow 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, ACSOM 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 2018 Pittodrie swagger following Sam Cosgrove’s scything challenge 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: 20 major domestic gongs (one with Hibs); 55 international caps; 550 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 only the second Celtic captain to lead his team to eight 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 had the hint of ‘abrakebabra’ about them.
The requiem writers, those ravenous few who continue to write-off Scott Brown, should look back at footage of his focussed gaze during Celtic’s pre-match huddle. Hanging on every word, his team-mates implicitly trust their leader, who done more than most to ensure that the club overcame Rodgers’ abrupt departure midway through last season. No-one in Scotland inspires and influences his onfield compatriots as much as Brown.
His overall performances since Neil Lennon returned to the helm have been demonstrative of a man at the peak of his powers. In summing up the regular noise being generated from Ibrox, Brown has been quoted as responding, “We usually do our talking on the park.”
That he will continue to do his talking on the pitch is unquestionable, but, at 35 years-old in June, Scott Brown may have one eye on a transition into the coaching setup at Celtic Park. If he does so, his path would continue the club’s return to their famous boot-room days of old, as Brown would be joining several ex-Celts behind-the-scenes, including the aforementioned Lenny, as well as 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 18 months then I’d challenge anyone to argue that Scott Brown is anything less than Scottish football’s finest leader of the modern age.
Paul John DykesWatch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind