CELTIC captain Scott Brown has leaped to the defence of his team-mate Kris Commons following criticism from SFA performance director Mark Wotte of the midfielder’s decision to retire from international football at the age of 29.
Commons announced on Tuesday night that he would no longer be available for Scotland duty, explaining he wished to devote more time to his family and also extend his top-level career with Celtic for as long as possible.
The unexpected move, after Gordon Strachan didn’t name Commons in his Scotland squad to face Croatia in a World Cup qualifier in June, prompted a withering response from Wotte yesterday. The outspoken Dutchman used his Twitter account to question Commons’ motives and suggest that he lacked ambition. Wotte wrote: “Retiring at 29 after only ten caps honestly still puzzles me! Meaning, where does pride, desire and ambitions come in this picture?”
Brown, who was named Scotland captain for Strachan’s first game in charge against Estonia three months ago, the occasion on which Commons earned what proved to be his 12th and final cap, disagreed with Wotte.
“There is nothing wrong with Kris’ desire, no matter what Mark Wotte says,” said Brown. “He has come to a big club like Celtic and shown what he can do. He trains hard, he is always in the gym.
“He is one of the first ones into training in the morning and one of the last ones to leave, so there is nothing wrong with his desire whatsoever.”
Commons and his partner Lisa suffered the anguish of their first child being stillborn five years ago. They have since had three healthy children and the former Nottingham Forest and Derby County player is keen to spend as much time as possible with them over the next few years.
Brown sympathises with his team-mate and says the demands of international football, on top of domestic and European commitments with Celtic, can have an effect on family life.
“Every man to his own,” added Brown. “We stay away in a lot of hotels on European trips and it is hard to see you family, so I totally understand where Kris is coming from.
“We are also in hotels the night before every domestic game and you can be away from the family three times a week. So you could be having just a night or two in your own house a week, then there are the double-headers with Scotland when you can be away for ten days at a time. So it is hard.”
Brown believes Commons, one of Celtic’s stand-out performers this season, will be missed by Scotland as Strachan attempts to revitalise the squad ahead of the 2016 European Championship qualifiers.
“Kris will be a loss,” he said. “He is a great player and has shown that this season. He has been on fire with the goals he has scored for us. He is like Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore – he seems to shoot from anywhere and it goes in!”.
Brown is also convinced that Scotland’s loss will be Celtic’s gain as they look to benefit from Commons’ decision in the next few seasons. “It will help Celtic out,” added Brown. “Especially when the international lads all go away on those ten-day trips and he is back in his house feeling fresh. He is getting a little bit older, so he needs the rest! Seriously, he is a great player for Celtic and great to have around our dressing room.”