It isn’t typical to enjoy going into your work on your birthday. Yet as Scott Brown turns 35 on Thursday, there is nowhere that the Celtic captain would rather be than the club’s training ground.
Plenty thought he would have no place there well into his 30s, following his lifeless display when Celtic last were bested in a domestic competition with their Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Rangers in 2016. Six years earlier, difficulties in his relationship with Tony Mowbray had many wondering if Brown would still be cutting it at the club even come his late 20s.
The midfielder isn’t a great survivor, though. The commander and heartbeat of a nine-in-a-row league winning – and 11-in-a-row domestic trophy winning – Celtic is the great adaptor. The snarler has become a smirker as he relishes the athletic focus required to keep going.
“I cherish every single moment that I go on the park now,” said Brown. “That’s why I play with a smile nowadays, which I didn’t really ten years ago. Playing in front of 60,000 fans is something that isn’t going to last forever, so you need to take it all in. I enjoy training and even the drive through to Lennoxtown.
“I have a routine which I’ve followed now for 13 years and I don’t ever want it to end, but it will one day, so you just have to make the most of it while you can. Staying injury-free and having a good attitude helps, too.”
Desire, as much as diligence, has underpinned Brown’s staying power. He is preparing to lead his team into the season that could end all seasons through the fact it offers the potential for Celtic to claim not just a record tenth straight title but achieve the bonkers feat of racking up a quintuple treble. Only the Covid-19 lockdown in March prevented the club having the opportunity to reel in a fourth consecutive clean sweep of the domestic honours. The campaign ended before their Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen, that the SFA maintain will be fitted in next season.
“When I had the chance to go to Australia or the USA last year there were a lot of people who couldn’t understand why I stayed and signed a two-year contract because they thought my best days were already behind me,” he said. “However, I enjoy proving people wrong. There’s no question that America and Australia both looked good. They had the sunshine, the beaches, the golf courses and the lovely lifestyle that goes with that. But winning games in front of a full Celtic Park, winning trebles and clinching nine-in-a-row definitely tops it.
“I came to Celtic because I wanted to win trophies, play in the Champions League and test myself against the best players in the world. I’ve done all of those things and loved it and I still want more.
“Celtic fans demand that we get the best players in Scotland and put in performances in the right manner. I thrive under that kind of pressure, especially if pundits and even supporters think my legs have gone.
“Proving people wrong is something I’ve done since I was a kid. When I was younger I was told I wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t tall enough and I wasn’t aggressive enough. I went away and tried to work on all of those things, and maybe went a bit too far on the aggression sometimes, but that’s what I’ve always done and what I intend to continue doing while playing with a smile on my face.”
There will be no greater strain showing on Brown’s face with what is at stake in the next year. He claims the unique circumstances that will frame the league campaign and Celtic’s unparalleled silverware-snaring won’t make life more difficult for Neil Lennon’s men.
“The pressure is always the same here,” Brown said. “Now we’re two wins away from a fourth successive treble people expect that we should be able to do that all the time even though no-one’s ever done it before. We’re not supposed to lose in the league to anyone, which is bound to happen now and again. It’s how you bounce back from disappointments that matters.
“We have that bouncebackability, that knack of being able to go on a run after a setback, like we did after losing to Rangers at Parkhead in December. We went to Dubai, worked really hard and we were flying after that.”
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