IMAGE is important to Scott Brown. When he is hiding behind a carefully crafted character, one of the daft laddie, the joker, the player who is injury prone and even when fit is okay but nothing more, he is comfortable, writes Moira Gordon.
He has been playing that role for so long now that the lines between reality and fiction have long since blurred for many but not his gaffer.
“He’s an intelligent boy,” cautions Ronny Deila, refusing to play along with his captain’s charade. “That other stuff is just an image sometimes. But it is also good to be self-deprecating about things. That’s very important when you live with this pressure every day, to have a laugh. That makes the group better too. Scott has a lot of energy and he shows that every day.”
But still, ask the Scotland and Celtic captain about his fitness and he refers to himself as chocolate, ask about the coaching work he is adding to his resume and he dismisses it as a way of letting off steam and being able to shout at other folks’ kids instead of his own offspring. He diverts serious introspection by insisting that his one brain cell has managed to absorb the odd thing over the years and when it comes to European competition he mocks the chances he says he has missed rather than focus on the valuable contributions he has made.
Self-deprecation is something he mastered a long time ago and it has become his default mode but it doesn’t paint a true picture.
This was the player who was asked to play through niggling injuries last term to aid the new management team in getting the ideas over and points on the board. The fact that is no longer as vital says more about the way others have learned and listened and should not be seen as a negative indictment on his own ability, according to his manager.
“He is great for a coach as well as you know you will always get 100 percent. Last year it was very, very hard to ever leave him out the team. This year it is hard as well but we have played without him a few times. That’s not because Broony has been any worse but because the others have been better. That makes me comfortable knowing that not everything is reliant on him as that is not fair on him. He needs other players to take responsibility too so he can also concentrate on his own game.”
It is by taking a wider view that he has been able to improve his game.
“You get older and a wee bit wiser too,” said Brown. “My wee brain cell does work now and again. It does take a couple of things in! The coaching has helped in that sense. With the position I play, I don’t worry too much about the attacking but I am cautious about what happens when we lose the ball. I look at who can get in from the other team and how to defend. If we keep clean sheets, we will win games because we have a lot of threat up the park.
“It’s good. I’m learning and no matter how old you are, you need to keep doing that. Coaching the 20s is the best way for me to do that.”
But while he is feeling good mentally and physically coping with the demands of a two-games-a-week schedule, he says he would welcome a little bit of the luck that often distinguishes between success and failure on the grandest stages. Back in Europa League action on Thursday, he is looking forward to the challenge posed by Fenerbahce and the opportunity to employ some of the lessons learned in Europe in the past.
“My first experience was Spartak Moscow away and it was good, although I should have scored. Then it was Shakhtar away and we were 2-0 down inside eight minutes. We thought it would be the same kind of game as Spartak but it wasn’t. We had a five-man midfield and we didn’t really know what was happening. But we kicked on afterwards and still managed to get through to the last 16 [of the Champions League]. That showed the mental toughness of that team.
“Nowadays I have more experience and that’s the main difference. You are still going in against top players and you know you need to be on your game no matter what. [Fenerbahce] have signed a lot of good players and it will be a real contest. Maybe they underestimated Molde a bit in the first game but I’m sure they won’t make the same mistake on Thursday.”