Scott Brown launched a vigorous defence yesterday of his tackle against Hearts striker, Juanma, which has put the Celtic captain at the eye of a media storm.
Brown believes that the intense scrutiny over the two-footed challenge during last Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Celtic Park is out of proportion for a tackle he says was far from the worst. Robbie Nielson, the Hearts manager, claimed that Brown escaped punishment because it took place in the champions’ backyard, saying: “There should have been but it’s at Parkhead, that’s what happens.”
Brown took a moment out of Celtic’s preparation for tonight’s important Scottish Premiership game with Dundee at Dens Park, to offer his view and suggested that his critics need to “man up”.
“I have not looked back on it yet, so I am not really sure,” said the Celtic captain. “Some people have said it was a bad one but I haven’t had time to look at it. I don’t go into hurt anyone. I am sure I will look back on it.
“In football, there is too much focus on a wee slide tackle here or there. We need to man up about it. Football is a contact sport, you have to deal with some tackles. And I am not saying mine was great, or a bad one.
“It was a good battle last Saturday. Hearts are a top-quality side and we managed to score three times after going a goal down. That showed up the team spirit which has always been there. We always knew there was top-quality players in that dressing room and we now have to kick on. We need to go up to Dundee and get three points.”
Celtic’s assistant manager, John Collins, oversaw press duties in the absence of manager Ronny Deila. The trip to Dens Park was originally scheduled for 30 December but was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch. Now Deila’s side have the chance to convert that game in hand into tangible reward. Victory over Dundee would increase Celtic’s lead over Aberdeen in the title race to seven points.
Collins, though, feels Aberdeen will remain a threat. “Seven points would be a nice buffer but until it’s mathematically done and dusted, then we will not write off Aberdeen,” said Collins. “We can’t coast because Aberdeen are picking up three points, week-in, week-out.
“We’re looking at them winning games. They have pushed us in a fantastic season. All credit to them. It keeps us on our toes, keeps the media happy, keeps the television happy. They have kept up a bit of pressure. It’s up to us to continue winning because I fully expect them to continue winning matches.”
Collins revealed yesterday that Tom Rogic, who sustained a bad head knock against Hearts which led to him being substituted before half-time, requires to satisfy medical conditions before the Australian international can play at Dens Park. Rogic did not train yesterday and will only play if given a medical all-clear under Fifa guidelines.
The youngster who scored two goals in Celtic’s win over Hearts, Patrick Roberts, was given a glowing endorsement by Collins. The 19-year-old winger arrived on loan from Manchester City in January with some hype attached because they had paid Fulham £12 million for someone with just a handful of first-team appearances.
“Patrick’s price tag is unusual,” said Collins. “That’s modern-day football. Normally when you pay that amount for a player he’s got 30 caps and 300 games. But that’s the money down south for you. I’ve got to be honest, the price tag doesn’t seem to bother him.
“Patrick is very talented. His first touch is excellent. He is one of those wide players who gets you on the edge of your seat. I think everyone loves watching that type of player. The fans come to see it. We’re after three points every week, but everyone wants three points with entertainment and goals and we have to enjoy these types of players.”
Collins revealed that Celtic have cut their losses on another winger who failed to live up to his billing. The £3m signing from Ajax, Derk Boerrigter, has been released early from his contract. “I can confirm he’s moved on so we wish him well in his next adventure,” said Collins.