SCOTT Brown has been forced to withdraw from the Scotland squad, raising fears that the Celtic captain may struggle to be fit for the Champions League qualifying tie faced by his club in just six weeks’ time.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan was unwilling to divulge the reason for Brown’s absence from the party which assembled last night ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Croatia on Friday but offered veiled comments that could suggest a gloomy prognosis. The midfielder only returned to the Celtic side in the final weeks of the season following surgery on an abductor muscle. It was revealed last summer he has a degenerative hip condition.
Brown’s team-mate James Forrest was also ruled out last night after being assessed by Scotland medical staff. Again, no detail of the ailment was made public.
Brown was seen to limp during the celebrations after his side’s Scottish Cup final win over Hibernian last Sunday. He was substituted late on but Strachan said his absence from the Zagreb trip is not a consequence of his exertions at Hampden.
“He has to call it a day for a while,” the Scotland manager said of Brown. “I think I’ll leave it to Celtic to tell you how long it is going to be because it is not my right to tell you. I spoke to Broony for a long time this week but it had nothing to do with football, I just spoke to Broony for a long time. I think it is up to Celtic to tell you exactly what is going on. It’s only fair.
“It is a huge disappointment to lose him. Last weekend, every time Hibs had a move he would stop it. I don’t think he is a natural sitter but he can do it through sheer energy.”
Strachan will also be without Brighton midfielder Liam Bridcutt, Wigan’s Gary Caldwell, who is expected to have hip surgery, Rangers’ Lee Wallace and Southampton’s Danny Fox. So the resultant call-up for Motherwell left-back Steven Hammell, who won a solitary cap nine years ago has been a fillip for Strachan.
Strachan said: “I said to Mark [McGhee] and Stuart [McCall] the other day, why don’t we get someone in who, when we bring them in, thinks: ‘this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me’. With his initial reaction I think we have found someone in Stevie Hammell.”