CURBING his own enthusiasm has never come naturally to Scott Brown and the Celtic captain has admitted that his desire to appear in last month’s
Scottish Cup final came at a cost.
• Celtic captain Scott Brown eager to catch-up with team-mates after missing a week of pre-season training
• “My body feels fine,” says Scotland midfielder as he bids to regain peak condition
The midfielder led Celtic to their domestic double clinching victory over Hibs at Hampden on 26 May just seven weeks after undergoing abductor muscle surgery.
Brown limped off near the end of Celtic’s 3-0 win, his discomfort compensated by the subsequent climb up the Hampden steps to collect the silverware and complete a successful season which will live long in his memory.
But it forced him to pull out of Scotland’s World Cup qualifying trip to Croatia the following week and cast fresh doubt over his chances of being fully fit in time for the forthcoming season for both club and country.
Happily for Brown, who celebrated his 28th birthday earlier this week, a restful summer has proved beneficial and he is now optimistic he will be ready for Celtic’s opening Champions League qualifier against Cliftonville in Belfast on 17 July. He also has his sights firmly set on returning to Scotland manager Gordon Strachan’s plans for the prestigious friendly against England at Wembley on 14 August.
“I was maybe a bit too eager to get back for the cup final, especially with Victor Wanyama and Beram Kayal being suspended for it,” reflected Brown. “If they had been available, I would maybe have sat on my backside for that wee bit longer and had more of a rest.
“I just started back at training today, so the rest of the lads are a wee bit ahead of me. I’ve just been running and I’ll see how it goes in the next couple of weeks.
“But I feel good and I’ll start twisting and turning tomorrow. It’s all looking good. I did a couple of bits and bobs during the summer, but nothing really too strenuous to put my body through.
“The physio and the management staff just told me to rest and see how I came back. I just need to try and get back up to full fitness as quickly as possible and get a couple of games under my belt as well.
“I’m looking forward to getting back among the lads. I’ve not been bored, but I have missed training and having the craic with the lads. But it’s been good to recharge the batteries.
“I hope I can play right through this next season. But I’ll see how it goes. My groin problems seem to have gone, so that’s the main thing. It just needed a bit more rest.
“I definitely feel I’ll be okay for the first European game against Cliftonville. I don’t see why not. Hopefully I’ll get at least a couple of friendlies under my belt during our pre-season trip to Germany. It’s going to be a bit of a boot camp but it will be enjoyable as well. I’m looking forward to it.
“I want to play for Scotland too. It means a lot to me. Especially with Gordon giving me the captaincy in his first game, which was huge for me. I was sad I couldn’t go to Croatia, but I don’t think the lads needed me. They did really well. For the first hour, they pressed Croatia really high up the pitch. It was like the good old Scotland performances, putting teams under pressure, getting a goal and defending really well.
“I’d love to be involved next time. Wembley is going to be a great game and a great occasion. I think we should do it every couple of years, it would be good to bring that back. It will all depend on this one, I suppose. Everyone will expect England to have a nice easy run out against us but I’m sure we will stand up and be counted.”
Standing up and being counted is something Brown can always be relied upon to do, although he admits his spate of injury problems in recent seasons can provoke nagging doubts during matches.
“You always think about the injuries, but you have to try and stay positive. You have to look forward and not play within yourself and think about getting injured. You have to give everything 100 per cent. I’m feeling good just now, which is easy for me to say on my first day back in training, but hopefully that can continue.
“If you worry about things too much, it starts to play with your mind and your emotions. But I’m quite positive and I go out and give everything I’ve got in training and in games.
“Now and then, there were times in games when I knew I couldn’t get there to make a tackle. Instead of taking a chance of maybe winning the ball, I knew to sit back and wait for them to come towards me with the ball. But now I can hopefully go back to my good old ways of trying to get the ball and see how I go.
“I knew I wasn’t 100 per cent fit for some games last season. I didn’t have to play within myself, but I had to know how far I could push my body. Over the whole season, I benefitted from that because I managed to last longer in games. I played 33 games, which isn’t too bad after thinking in the first few games of the season I was going to need an operation.”
Brown was speaking at the launch of Celtic’s new DVD – 125 Years In The Making – The Story of Celtic FC’s Anniversary Season – which chronicles the campaign which saw them reach the last 16 of the Champions League as well as winning the SPL and Scottish Cup.
“It is going to be really hard to better last season,” added Brown. “But we want to push ourselves as hard as we can. If we can keep this group of players and maybe add one or two more, we can maybe push to achieve the same and maybe even better.”