Celtic, Bertie Auld, Scott Brown: Fate deals returning hero a striking hand in Aberdeen clash

Fate has dealt Scott Brown a striking hand as he prepares for his first visit to Celtic Park since he cut his 13-year strong ties with the Glasgow side by moving to Aberdeen in the summer.

Callum McGregor believes Celtic have chance to build real momentum with 11 games in the next 35 days. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Callum McGregor believes Celtic have chance to build real momentum with 11 games in the next 35 days. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

It seems apposite that Brown, such a figurehead across the second-most successful era of the club that earned him 22 honours, will be at the centre of tributes to the most captivating personality of the most glittering period enjoyed by Celtic. Before he goes into battle for the Pittodrie team on a pitch he knows every inch of intimately through prowling it more than 300 times across his near two-decade career, Brown will perform duties that ill recall his former footballing life.

He will join his successor as Celtic captain Callum McGregor in laying wreaths to Bertie Auld, as the European Cup replica is paraded and a minute’s applause conducted for the Lisbon Lion who died almost a fortnight ago. The first opportunity for the Celtic faithful to celebrate the rich life of the irrepressible Auld, the occasion will be the chance for them to show their gratitude to not one but two men both so embedded in the culture of the club and so synonymous with extraordinary success. Auld’s 13 winners’ medals dazzle with a brightness that is denied Brown’s more sizeable haul. But the 36-year-old’s contribution to the Celtic cause as a leader for the club’s quadruple treble that elevated a nine title run undoubtedly means he has earned a place among the club’s greats. And McGregor feels there is a certain symmetry in Brown’s return falling on a special afternoon for the Celtic community.

“Just looking at the numbers [for Brown] tells you he was hugely successful at the club, a real legend for the club as well, so it is certainly fitting to be able to honour Bertie with one of the other greats. It has all come together at a good time. For us as a club we want to show our appreciation for Bertie and what he did for the club. It will be a great tribute. We were just at the funeral on Friday as well so it is a real emotional time for the club. One of our legends has passed away and the club has come up with a very fitting tribute, as it always does, to remember Bertie. We will be trying to create a special atmosphere for him on Sunday and then we need to try and match that with the result as well. At the same time it will be good to see Broony. But we have to look at the game itself because we need three points. That means trying to take the emotion out of it as much as possible to focus on what we need to do. Once the game is over we will have a chat but for the 90 minutes both of us will be doing everything we can to win the game for our respective teams.”

Celtic fans pay respect as Lisbon Lion legend Bertie Auld's funeral cortege passes Celtic Park. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)


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As vice-captain, McGregor doesn’t downplay the mentoring, modelling, role that Brown played for him in being there every step of the way through his career until earlier this year. All through a process of osmosis rather than any major, staged confabs. “We were always talking. Scott was brilliant for me when I was coming through in terms of always giving me any help he could,” McGregor said. “Then over the last few years we got really close and he was always helping me so it wasn’t a case of sitting down and having that type of chat. He was such a great leader so there were always bits where I would try and learn off what he would do in any given situation. But I would also be trying to put my own spin on it as well.”

Brown, as a battling, narking showman of a performer that could often blind to his mastery as he developed into a smart, metronomic midfielder, was a one off. But how rallied his men and puffed out his chest and took the fight to opponents on behalf of his team has set an example for the more measured and understated McGregor. “Just the way he led,” the 28-year-old said when asked if there were any elements of the Brown approach he has sought to replicate. “He was always such a presence in the changing room. He took responsibility for the players on his shoulders and just kind of let everyone else go and play. I think that is important, that the guys feel they have got a go-to and then I will take the responsibility and let them play, let them enjoy their football. That was something he was very good at, being that focal point in the dressing room.”

McGregor certainly possesses the authority of Brown in how he presents Celtic’s objectives. Aberdeen’s visit to Glasgow is the first of 11 games across the next 35 days that will extensively shape how this season will pan out for Ange Postecoglou’s team, and provides the chance to deliver a first trophy with the Premier Sports Cup final against Hibs in the mix. Europe League prospects may have evaporated to leave only Conference League football after the 3-2 defeat away to Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, but the Scotland international recognises that a revitalised Parkhead side must immediately move on from a first defeat in 10 if the title is to be wrestled from Rangers’ grasp. “Through that sort of December period, you are in a cycle of play, recovery for the next game and then play again,” McGregor said. “If you can get into that pattern and the team are feeling good and you are getting results then it can quite quickly snowball into a real bit of good momentum. That is something we have always tried to do and I am pretty sure we will be trying to do again this time around.”

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Celtic's Callum McGregor acknowledges his former team-mate and now Aberdeen captain Scott Brown after the clubs' first meeting of the season, at Pittodrie eiight weeks ago. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

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