SCOTT Brown may have felt questions from the Russian media could not get any more bizarre than when he was asked on the eve of Celtic’s victory in Moscow two months ago if he and his team-mates prepared for matches by watching Braveheart.
But there was a cultural aspect of an altogether different kind in the Jock Stein Lounge at Celtic Park yesterday when the club captain faced the visiting press ahead of tonight’s Champions League return fixture against Spartak. One Russian journalist informed Brown that Celtic’s 3-2 win in Moscow had been a “crime” against Spartak and asked what “punishment” he expected to be inflicted as retribution tonight. He then stepped forward and handed a bemused Brown a copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment.
Brown mouthed a cursory “thank you” in response, but was clearly less than impressed. He left the book behind when he moved on to a more familiar session with the Scottish written press. He will lead Celtic tonight against previous expectations, manager Neil Lennon having stated in the immediate aftermath of last month’s 2-1 defeat to Benfica in Lisbon that his captain would have to undergo surgery on his long-standing hip problem and face an absence of up to ten weeks. But Brown now believes it is no longer inevitable he will have to go under the knife.
“The way I am feeling right now, I don’t need an operation, although it could be a different story a couple of weeks or six months down the line,” said Brown. “I’m feeling fit just now and have been doing extra running on top of my training sessions. I’ve not had a single bit of pain and, hopefully, that can continue. Everything is fine and the doctor is not too worried about it. The last two or three weeks have been fine, although before that, there were a couple of weeks where I was waking up with aches and pains.
“I was going into training sessions worrying if I could twist and turn the next day, but that is three and a half weeks it has been brand new. I’m really happy it’s not gone back to the stage where I am stuck lying on the couch. Before that, I was getting up and, where usually I could sit up no problem, I was rolling out of bed like a 50-year-old man and managing just to get myself through to training. But I wasn’t worrying. I know what the problem is and so does the consultant. He is fine with it as long as I am feeling fine in games and training.”
Having missed the famous 2-1 home win over Barcelona, Brown is determined to play his part in a victory tonight which could seal qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League.
“This is right up there with anything in my career,” he added. “It’s huge and will be a great occasion for the club. Everyone expected us to finish bottom of the group at the start of the campaign, but we have shown we can win on the road and at home in Europe.”