Although both his club and international managers have been quick to defend him, Celtic skipper Scott Brown has accepted responsibility for his game-changing red card against Barcelona on Tuesday night.
Brown was sent off by French referee Stephane Lannoy after first tripping and then stubbing a foot into Neymar as Celtic fell to a 1-0 Champions League defeat. The Brazilian’s theatrical reaction to the challenge was condemned by Celtic manager Neil Lennon afterwards. Neymar was also taken to task by Gordon Strachan yesterday, as the Scotland manager named Brown in his 24-man squad for the final World Cup qualifier against Croatia on Tuesday, 15 October.
However, Brown held up his hands last night and admitted he had made a “mistake”, although he stressed that he still thought the referee’s interpretation of the incident had been harsh.
Celtic were forced to play for more than half an hour with only ten men and conceded a headed winner to Cesc Fabregas when only 14 minutes of the match remained. Brown’s red card was described as a pivotal moment in the game.
Although Strachan yesterday attributed Neymar’s play-acting to the 21-year-old’s South American “culture”, Brown conceded he had given the referee an excuse to send him off.
“I realise that I made a mistake in getting sent off last night,” Brown said, in a statement released on the official club website yesterday evening. “It’s something that happened in the heat of the moment, but I shouldn’t have acted in this way.
“I still think it was a harsh decision. However, I recognise that I made a mistake and put myself and my team-mates in a difficult position. I need to live with that and there is no-one more disappointed than me about losing the match.
“There wasn’t a huge amount of contact at all, to be honest, but I have to accept responsibility for my actions – and I do.
“The team deserved to get something out of the game after playing so brilliantly and putting in so much effort against one of the best sides in the world.
“I was also disappointed for the supporters after the incredible backing they gave us during the game. They were magnificent once again.”
Earlier in the afternoon Strachan had defended Brown, whom he described as someone who “gets on with everybody”.
At first reluctant to speak in depth about the incident – “I did it last night,” he said, with reference to his ITV analyst duties – Strachan eventually expanded on the subject. Brown is expected to lead Scotland out next Friday at Hampden in the continued absence of Darren Fletcher and Gary Caldwell.
Strachan referred to the “bit of devil” that exists in Brown and explained that it helps make him the player he is.
The Scotland manager named Neymar as the real villain of the piece, and compared the Brazilian’s reaction to the one by Diego Simeone, who fell to the turf and then rolled about the pitch after being flicked by David Beckham’s foot in St Etienne during a World Cup clash between Argentina and England at the World Cup finals in 1998. Beckham was sent off and then vilified.
“You’ve got to remember that in South America that’s accepted,” said Strachan. “In Britain, your mates say, ‘what are you doing? You embarrassed yourself there’.
“It’s not going to change now,” he added. “They have all that respect and handshakes thing, then they roll about on the ground.”
“It’s the culture,” he added. “If you’ve been in South America, where these people come from, you’ll do anything not to go back there and you’ll do anything to make a living.
“It’s very hard to understand unless you’ve gone over there and seen where these people come from. They’ve had to do anything to get to where they are. We don’t like it but if you understand it you can maybe see where it’s come from.”
Strachan added that he didn’t feel it would be necessary to speak to Brown when the squad meets up next Wednesday. “He’ll be fine,” he said.
Asked whether he felt there has been an over-reaction to what Brown did, he added: “I have not picked up a paper yet. I think you leave that to Lenny and to Celtic to deal with that. Listen, there is a devil inside us that comes out on the football field, and sometimes you go home and think: ‘what was I doing there?’ We have all been there. There is a wee devil inside us. But I think we should forget that and get on with it. We have seen [the incident with Neymar] and we all go ‘wooah, maybe he gave the referee an opportunity…’
“But then we are going: ‘what was Neymar doing?’ It is like the David Beckham and Simeone thing. You look at David, and then you look at Simeone and say: ‘I thought he was supposed to be a hard man?’”
Brown will be automatically suspended for the visit of Ajax on 22 October following the red card, but it remains a possibility that the midfielder could also be ruled out of the match in Amsterdam on 6 November and the home game against AC Milan 20 days later if his behaviour is deemed to be violent conduct.
“At the moment he is automatically banned for one game only as a result of the red card,” said a Uefa spokesman. “However, there will be a disciplinary meeting to decide whether or not he should also be suspended for further games. There has not been a date set for that meeting yet. It will not take place before match day three but, since Brown cannot play in that match in any case, that does not matter.”