Scott Brown described his hour-long stint as Scotland captain as being “the stuff dreams are made of” last night, with the outing made especially memorable after his team-mates held out to give new manager Gordon Strachan a winning start.
“I was lucky enough to be the guy to do it,” said the Celtic midfielder, who led the team out against Estonia after being selected as skipper by Strachan on Tuesday.
Brown looked at ease in the role before making way for James Morrison after 60 minutes, with Celtic’s Champions League clash against Juventus next week firmly in mind. Strachan had come to an agreement with Neil Lennon to play Brown for only a part of last night’s match. “I think the two managers spoke and sorted out a few things, and I was happy to play as long as possible,” said Brown, who said the team responded well to Strachan’s orders to play as high up the park as possible.
“Steven Fletcher started it all off for us pressing high up the park, with Shaun [Maloney] in the hole,” said Brown. “It let our centre-halves come up, and it helped us out quite a lot in the middle of the park. We now try to put teams under pressure and let them make mistakes, especially on a pitch where it wasn’t easy to pass out from the back. There was always going to be mistakes and misplaced passes.”
Brown shares a significant history with Strachan, who paid a record Scottish fee for the midfielder when signing him for Celtic from Hibernian.
“He just loves his job,” said Brown. “He enjoys the lads being around and he enjoys the big games. He enjoys making the big, tough decisions as well.”
Strachan handed starts to Chris Burke and Charlie Mulgrew, and both players re-paid the manager’s faith with starring shows. Burke caught the eye with his first-half performance, before he was replaced at half-time. Mulgrew scored the game’s only goal five minutes before the interval and might have scored again in the second-half. The result has helped life spirits before the World Cup qualifying games resume next month, against Wales and Serbia. The defeat against Wales in October still rankles with Brown, with Scotland having had a Steven Fletcher goal ruled-out after the referee wrongly adjudged a cross to have gone out of play.
“We know we are good enough to kick on and start playing better than we have done,” said Brown. “It’s been disappointing, but it’s the start of a new era, hopefully we can now kick on now. It was good to get back with all the lads and especially with the new manager. It would be good to get pay-back against the Welsh; we played well in the first-half and it was slightly disappointing the way the game ended.
“Sometimes it comes off, sometimes not. The ball was in the park when Steven scored, but we still should have shut up shop and kept a clean sheet.”
Mulgrew was full of praise for Strachan when he spoke at full-time. “It’s been good, been different, some new ideas in there,” said Scotland’s goal hero.
Mulgrew also hoped last night’s victory would kick-start the new dawn, adding: “It was difficult conditions... the most important thing was getting the win so we are happy.
“It is good to get that winning spirit – hopefully we can go on and get more wins.”