“It’s the first time someone’s agreed with me, eh?” smiled Scott Brown proudly. He had just been informed that Ronny Deila had just backed his skipper for his impassioned outburst following the surprise defeat to Hamilton Accies two weekends ago.
Rather than being angered that his skipper had strayed off-message, his manager applauded Brown for his comments. There were, however, still some contradictions. Brown reasserted his complaint that Celtic had not created enough chances against Hamilton. Deila, however, repeated the point he made after game. Chances there were aplenty, they had simply not been clinical enough.
“We created 12 very good chances against Hamilton and did not score one,” said Deila. “Against Dundee United, we created 11 and scored six.”
Nevertheless, Deila was interested only in bonding with his skipper yesterday as they sought to present a united front before today’s lunchtime kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall. It is not the venue they would have chosen on the back of an international break and, with players returning from as far away as Africa in dribs and drabs.
However, Deila refused to get his excuses in early when queried about the kick-off time.
He wondered whether the international break had, in fact, been a blessing, because so many of his players, including Brown, had enjoyed good experiences with their teams.
Following the Hamilton result, Deila had originally said he wanted to play another match as soon as possible in order to try and get the defeat out of the system. Now he seems gladdened by the break. “We have had a break and some of the players have had some good experiences in Europe,” he said.
He also understood where Brown was coming from when he heard what his skipper had to say about Celtic’s last display.
“I agreed with Scott,” he said yesterday. “Of course there is a lot of emotion when you lose like that and we were all angry and disappointed. That’s how it is and some of the things were true.
“I understand. I have been a supporter myself,” he added. “We were going the right way so it was a hard hit to take. I did not see it coming.”
Deila was confident that no harm had been done to dressing-room harmony. Asked what the reaction had been from his team-mates to his outburst, Brown reported that he had only “been back 20 minutes” following his return from international duty.
“I’m just an angry wee man, aren’t I?” he smiled. “We are all big enough boys to shout at each other and give each other a little bit on the park. You have to take it on the chin.
“Everyone is doing it for a good reason. We all want to win and I think that is the main thing. I think everyone has to be critical after you have been beaten.
“You can’t just take it and walk away smiling after a defeat, especially at a club such as Celtic. That is the first time we had been beaten at Celtic Park in two-and-a-half years and we wanted to continue that run.
“It was devastating for me and everyone else to lose, particularly the way we did lose. We did not create enough chances and did not play well enough.”
While he might have referred to himself as an “angry wee man”, it isn’t, he confessed, how he wanted to be all the time. He doesn’t want the dressing-room to turn into a seething bed of recriminations.
“We don’t want to see too much anger,” he said. “What we want to see are good, positive results and the lads going about their business with a smile on their face.
“However, there’s a time and a place to be angry – and after a defeat, especially at home for the first time in two and a half years, you’ve got to show that.”
Brown was happy to hear that Deila had taken heart from Scotland’s performance in the 2-2 draw with Poland on Tuesday.
“We played the same way, with a 4-2-3-1 formation, and we are quite similar,” he said. “There is not a lot of height in both teams and that means we have got to work really hard off the ball, close people down and be brave in possession.
“We have managed to do that with Scotland and we are trying to do that with Celtic.”
He was, however, not so sure about Deila referencing the number of chances created against Hamilton, since it jarred with his own reading of that game. “But at the end of the day, none of that matters,” he said.
“The main thing is getting the ball in the back of the net.
“Look at us against Barcelona. They probably had 90 per cent of the ball, but we scored two goals. It shows that it is not all about what you do in two-thirds of the park. It is what you do in the box and how you create the chances.
“Hamilton created the chance and scored the goal and we couldn’t do it.”
Brown’s thoughts turned to today’s clash in Dingwall, which will present quite a contrast to the setting where he played with Scotland on Tuesday night in front of over 50,000 passionate fans. Like Deila, he stressed there can be no excuses if Celtic do not secure victory, even given Ross County’s improved form of late.
“We are Celtic,” said Brown. “We have got to prove it week in, week out against everybody.
“We know everyone ups their game when they play us, but we need to up our game every week as well after what happened with Hamilton. We can play better, create more chances and run further, but it is about getting the result.
“It doesn’t have to be pretty. There will be times when you are going to Inverness, the wind’s ‘blawing’ and the snow is flying here, there and everywhere.
“It cannot all be pretty football. It has to be about being men on the park. We are understanding that now.”