SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan has made no issue of Scott Brown’s appearance on the front of a tabloid newspaper last week, looking the worse for wear after a night on the town.
Brown was yesterday named in a 26-man Scotland squad by Strachan, who the previous day had watched him put in a commanding performance in midfield for Celtic in the 2-0 League Cup final victory over Dundee United.
Brown’s display was under more scrutiny than usual after he was photographed slumped on a pavement after a night out in Edinburgh just four days before the final. Strachan, mindful of the “booze-gate” episode under then Scotland manager George Burley in 2009, has created a climate of abstinence at international gatherings in recent times. “We are away above that now,” he said late last year. Strachan re-emphasised yesterday how alcohol is a no-go area for both the players and staff. Asked if Brown’s behaviour last week concerned him, Strachan pointed out that because the player was not under his watch when the incident occurred, it was not for him to say. He added that, while he was in Brown’s company yesterday after the game “it was only for about two seconds – I just got a stare, which is fine”. Strachan is a long-term supporter of Brown and signed the player from Hibernian when he was Celtic manager.
All that matters to the Scotland manager is that Brown turns up at the Scotland camp in his usual good shape this weekend. Along with other Scotland players, Brown, Strachan stressed, has never given him a moment for concern. Indeed, he often praises Brown’s ability to liven the place up when on Scotland duty.
“I can only deal with the players I’ve had here and the way they’ve behaved,” said Strachan. “Over the two and a half years here, we have not had a problem with the players. I keep saying to you, they come along to Scotland and they play for nothing. They give up their time for that.
“I can only deal with what I’ve got,” he continued. “These guys have been fantastic. You’d need to speak to Celtic or anybody else about their individual players and how they behave, or how they are perceived to behave on their days off. It’s up to them [Celtic]. They pay them full-time wages. We don’t pay them anything.
“We give them three decent meals, a Scotland strip, some decent training sessions and a cap,” he added. “They seem to be quite happy with that.”
Celtic manager Ronny Deila described the images of Brown published last week in a tabloid newspaper as “nothing for him and me to be proud about”. However, he stressed Brown had broken no club rules since the players were all off the following day anyway.
While there was a measure of condemnation in what he said, Deila concluded that the incident was “no big issue”. He claimed Brown is one of the fittest players at the club.
Strachan was happy to leave Celtic to deal with the matter when questioned on the topic yesterday, ahead of the forthcoming international matches against Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. The first game, against Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland, is a friendly, but the second versus Gibraltar is a vital Euro 2016 qualifier, and Strachan is conscious of the need to be serious about their work next week.
The Scotland manager stressed that no-one has ever broken any rules under him because there are no rules to break. He has utmost faith in his players, who in turn have never taken any liberties. They have enough self-control to know that the way to wind down now after a game is not to have a few beers. Strachan said: I don’t make rules. Until somebody upsets me, and then I’ll make a rule. But nobody has upset me. They have not annoyed me in any way, so I don’t have to make a rule. The only rule is the alcohol rule, but that’s not only for players – it’s for everybody.”
Scotland no longer base themselves at Cameron House, which is now associated with the notorious night – and morning – when several players, most notably Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor, stayed up drinking following a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands, and just four days before another crucial World Cup qualifier against Iceland.
The outraged reaction to that has helped establish in players’ minds that alcohol has no place while they are on Scotland duty. What they do at other times is their own affair, but Strachan’s own views on the subject are well-known.
After admitting he was once led astray when an impressionable teenager at Dundee in the early 1970s, he is now regarded as one of the first players to realise that a sensible lifestyle can help prolong a footballer’s career.
Even were Strachan in any way concerned by his players’ behaviour, he now has one fewer pair of eyes to monitor them following Stuart McCall’s decision to accept the offer of the manager’s job at Rangers until the end of the season.
“It’s a chance for him to do what he’s wanted to do and I’m delighted for him,” said Strachan, when asked about an appointment that robs him of one of his coaches, until the end of the season at least.
“We are going to wait,” he said. “Mark [McGhee] and I will get our heads together.
“We all had a really fluent way of doing things. We all knew our jobs. If I needed an hour on my own, I knew those two could look after things no problem.
“So more will be heaped on Mark’s shoulders. I will take on a bit more and the staff will take a wee bit more on and we’ll see where we go.
“We’ll enjoy these two games with the staff that we’ve got and at the end of May we will revise it and see if we need to do anything else.”
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