SCOTT Brown is hoping to defy his club manager Neil Lennon’s wishes by playing a full part in both of Scotland’s challenge matches during the current international break.
Celtic boss Lennon revealed last week he had asked his Scotland counterpart Gordon Strachan to limit the involvement of his players, who are midway through a Champions League group stage campaign, in tonight’s Hampden meeting with the USA and next Tuesday night’s game against Norway in Molde.
With winger James Forrest withdrawing from the squad through injury, it leaves Brown and Charlie Mulgrew as the two remaining Celtic representatives in Strachan’s squad. Brown has already made 23 appearances for club and country this season, but insists he has no desire to be rested at any stage.
Having seen last season badly disrupted by injury problems, the 28-year-old midfielder is savouring his consistent fitness levels this term, when his only absence has come through the self-inflicted wound of his three-match Uefa suspension.
“While I am free of injury and feeling fitter, if I could play every minute of every game then I would love to do so,” said Brown. “These are two big games for Scotland and, if I can play in both, then that would be an honour for me and I’m sure that’s the same for Charlie as well. I am enjoying playing for Scotland and for Celtic.
“When you are fit and eager to play, as I am now, that’s the main thing that keeps you going. After the two Scotland games, it’s back to a big game for Celtic at home to Aberdeen. Then we have AC Milan in the Champions League, so I will get a rest then.”
Brown admits to feeling envious of his Celtic team-mates who are set to be involved in the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer. Fraser Forster and Emilio Izaguirre can look forward to being in the England and Honduras squads respectively, while Mikael Lustig (Sweden), Georgios Samaras (Greece) and Efe Ambrose (Nigeria) are all involved in play-offs over the next few days. In addition, Virgil van Dijk and Tom Rogic are bidding for places in the Dutch and Australian squads respectively.
“Of course we wish we were going with Scotland,” said Brown. “It’s a great honour for the Celtic lads who have made it and I’m sure we will hear all about their World Cup experiences when they come back. That’s what we are trying to fight towards with Scotland. We are trying to build a squad and a starting eleven that can take us forward. I wouldn’t say we are nowhere near being at the standard needed to get to a major finals. All the lads in this squad believe we can do it next time.”
Brown will win his 35th cap when he leads Scotland out tonight, the fifth match in succession he has worn the armband for his country. He is relishing the mini-revival which has been engineered by his former Celtic boss Strachan.
“He hasn’t changed in the slightest since I worked with him at Celtic,” said Brown. “He still loves coming in and taking the lads for training sessions. I think that is something he probably missed when he was out of the game for a while.
“He has settled in really well to the job. As long as he is enjoying it, then the lads are enjoying it as well. He is so enthusiastic about training and games. It is his will to win that always impresses. He also wants you to be positive and doesn’t mind you making mistakes.
“He wants you get on the ball and would rather you were positive, and perhaps made a mistake, rather than not showing to get on the ball. He wants people to relax and enjoy playing under him rather than being scared of maybe taking a bad touch and maybe giving the ball away.
“Everyone respects the gaffer. When he talks, people listen. I think that’s the main thing. As soon as he came in, you saw that the lads understood what he wanted to do and understood his philosophy. He wants us to play football, get up the park and score goals.”