Upbeat Scott Brown toes party line over Scotland’s World Cup hopes
SCOTT Brown may have played no part in Scotland’s opening World Cup qualifiers but he is more than happy to toe the party line set out by Craig Levein when it comes to assessing the prospects of a trip to Brazil in 2014.
The Celtic captain’s ongoing hip injury problem forced him to miss the Hampden double-header against Serbia and Macedonia. He took a seat in the stand for Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with the Macedonians which, on the back of the goal-less showdown with the Serbs, left most observers viewing the campaign in the gloomiest possible terms for Scotland.
But, if Levein’s unbendingly upbeat assessment of his squad appears to fly in the face of all rational analysis of the situation they find themselves in, his players continue to endorse it in almost wilful disregard of reality.
Following on from Gary Caldwell’s bizarre tirade that any negativity surrounding Scotland’s current position has been solely manufactured by the media, rather than by the team’s performances on the pitch, Brown became the latest to leap to Levein’s defence.
Because, if you thought Scotland had lost ground by failing to win their first two home games in Group A, then allow Brown to re-educate you.
“I wouldn’t say it’s four points dropped,” said the 27-year-old midfielder, his verdict delivered with deadpan seriousness.
“I’d say it’s more two points gained. We could have lost both games. We are sitting only two points behind the group leaders. It’s not ideal, but it’s not too bad.
“It’s hard for an international manager. He only gets to see the players three or four times a season. He sees them maybe four or five days before a game and has to go in and pick his best eleven.
“It’s hard when the lads are just sitting about in hotels all the time, away from their families. But I do think it wasn’t too bad. We didn’t do amazingly, the lads know that and they’ll be as disappointed as the fans. It’s not just a one way thing.
“I went to the game on Tuesday night. We were unlucky. We had a few chances and if we had scored early doors, it would have stopped their fire. We are doing not too badly, we are just not getting over the finishing line.
“We are a wee bit unlucky here and there. But, to be fair, we are Scotland and we are always unlucky here and there. We are preparing properly, the lads are going out and giving 110 per cent. They are not coming off the park saying ‘We should have done this or that better’. They have given everything they can. It’s just a wee bit of luck here and there needed, and a few goals would help too.”
While Brown nurses his way through the ongoing hip problem which may yet threaten his return to Scotland colours for the vital double-header against Wales and Belgium in Cardiff and Brussels on 12 and 16 October, he will turn his attention to the more imminent challenge of Celtic’s Champions League group stage campaign.
It kicks off against Benfica at Celtic Park next Wednesday night, with tests against Spartak Moscow and Barcelona to come, and Brown is aware of the onus upon the Scottish champions to deliver some positivity to the country’s generally bleak football landscape.
“Yeah, no pressure then,” he said. “It’s good to be carrying the flag for Scotland and these will be six games you will remember for the rest of your life. Playing Barcelona, the Messis and Iniestas, is what dreams are made of and big for the young boys coming through. What other club can you get that with?
“We want the likes of Barcelona to bring their best team to see how far we have developed as a team and as individuals. The home games are the main ones for us.
“Celtic Park is hard for any team to visit. We’ve given Barcelona tough games there before and been unlucky. We’ve beaten the likes of Manchester United at home, so it shows we can pop up with surprise results.
“It’s a big thing on Neil Lennon’s CV to say he’s taken Celtic into the Champions League group stages.
“We’ve made cutbacks and, with Rangers not being in the league, we’ve had to sell players, so it’s been hard for the club and for him to do it with about nine of last season’s squad missing is incredible.
“This is the best Celtic team I have played in looking at it fitness-wise and attacking-wise. We have a couple of players for each position and that’s good. Once you have that and people fighting for places, it creates a lot more competition.
“All of the lads around me are incredible and just seem to be getting better and better. You see Gary Hooper playing up front, for example, and it’s some difference to when he first signed. He scores, he holds the ball up and bullies defenders twice his size.
“We have got people all over the team, like James Forrest who did well for Scotland, who have done really well for us. Once James gets on the ball, anything can happen.
“Training has been excellent this season and it’s a happy place to be. I know we lost Rangers and people said it would be an easy league, but that’s not the case with the likes of Hearts and Motherwell around. Hibs came to Celtic Park and got a 2-2 draw recently. So it’s going to be hard in the SPL too.”
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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