As he approaches his tenth anniversary at Celtic, Brown can now boast a haul of titles in which his latest, and seventh, stands as his most magnificent – and not just because it was achieved with 28 wins and two draws to ensure the first unbeaten march to a championship success in the post-war era. The satisfaction is to be found in the qualities that Rodgers has imparted to his squad. Under the fourth manager with whom Brown has enjoyed title success – he’s the first Celtic player to achieve that feat – it has all been about the “passionate” pursuit of a certain perfection.
“No matter what, he wants you to play football,” Brown said. “We understand that. It is the way we want to play. We were a little bit disappointing last year. We’ve also had to dig out a few huge results but that happens in a season.
“The manager has a real tempo to his training. It is long and it is hard but it is enjoyable as well. You are learning day in and day out. It is not just a case of turning up and having a wee game of five-a-sides here and there and being finished by 12 o’clock. It is proper, non-stop. He wants everyone to be a 24/7 athlete. I know I am still learning now. I will be 32 in the summer and feel as fit as I have ever been.
“The manager expects high standards and you have to make sure you maintain them right throughout the season. Otherwise someone could come in and replace you. Sunday definitely wasn’t my best game of the season. That wee circle thing was getting in my road…”
Rodgers has reiterated his commitment to Celtic in recent days after the former Liverpool manager had become a name to link with any potential vacancy at English football’s top table. Brown has never doubted that a man who has quickly become a life coach to him would want to hang around at a team he has transformed inside ten months.
“He has come here and wants to make Lennoxtown a better place,” the midfielder said. “We are getting a new pitch at Celtic Park. So he has ambition here, he wants to be here and he wants us to get into the Champions League again. That is the kind of manager he is. He is always pushing boundaries and wanting people to up their game. It doesn’t matter if you have had an exceptional season, you have to push on again next season.”
That pushing on means one thing: tasting group-stage success in the Champions League, as Brown did in 2007-08 and 2012-13. Rodgers will hope the creditable displays against Manchester City after returning the club to that level for the first time in three years can be a stepping stone to progress the club to the last 16.
“I think that is the manager’s plan,” Brown said. “It is always hard because we are back so early. We need to get through the [three] qualifying rounds. We played some great football in the Champions League but it is always going to be a hard group no matter who you get, you are dealing with top quality players. We need to defend better, score a few more goals and hopefully get out of the group stages. If we could do that it would be great for us.”
Great for Brown is receiving Rodgers’ blessing to revive his Scotland career last November, having only retired three months before. Even though it will squeeze his summer break before the July qualifiers, Rodgers has said he will help Brown manage his body for both the 10 June clash with England and the Champions League qualifiers that begin a month later.
“He was delighted for me to go back and play. He understands I love playing for Scotland,” said Brown.