Celtic skipper Brown slams post-split SPL schedule

Celtic captain Scott Brown with two young fans. Picture: SNS
Celtic captain Scott Brown with two young fans. Picture: SNS
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CELTIC captain Scott Brown has labelled the Scottish Premier League’s post-split fixture scheduling as “silly” and says it could devalue the manner in which his club retain their title.

Brown is bemused by the SPL’s decision to put Celtic’s nearest challengers Motherwell in action against Dundee United at Tannadice tonight in the first round of post-split matches.

If Motherwell fail to win this evening, Celtic will be formally confirmed as champions even before they kick off their own home game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Sunday.

“It could be won on Friday night when we are all sitting in the house,” said Brown. “So Sunday would then be a pointless game for us at the end of the day. It is kind of silly, really.

“The SPL knew what was going to happen, but they’ve put Motherwell’s game on Friday and ours on Sunday. Nobody knows why. I’d much rather both teams were playing on the same day.

“I actually hope Motherwell go out and win at Tannadice, so that we can turn up on Sunday at Celtic Park and clinch the championship ourselves, not just because another team has dropped points.”

Brown’s appearance in front of the media at Lennoxtown yesterday was the second such event of the week promoted by Celtic as they attempt to maximise ticket sales for a match which, in normal circumstances, would have been a sell-out some time ago.

It underlines the effect scheduling for television’s benefit is having on SPL attendances and Brown has sympathy with the supporters who have to plan their way through a season full of early lunchtime kick-off times.

“It could kill our crowds – that’s the main thing,” said the midfielder. “With us going to win the league, the crowds will keep coming in, but, after that, it’s going to be hard for them. The motivation goes down. We also have fans who travel from Ireland and what they do all through the season is fantastic, coming over to watch us week in, week out.

“But it’s hard for people to get out of bed at four o’clock in the morning to watch Celtic playing at quarter-to-one in the afternoon, especially when they know the league is already done and dusted and they could watch the game on TV.

“It’s especially hard when we are playing in Inverness or Dingwall to play at 12:30pm or something similar on a Saturday or Sunday. People have to leave at seven in the morning, which isn’t ideal. They still travel in their thousands and it’s amazing what the fans do.

“It’s not ideal for players either, eating your pasta for a pre-match meal at eight o’clock in the morning. Lovely, you can’t beat it, eh? But it’s part and parcel of the game here. Whatever the SPL do, we just have to go along with it.”

The inevitability of Celtic’s second successive title win has also been a factor for most of the season in the drop in attendances at Parkhead. But despite the absence of the traditional challenge posed by Rangers following their relocation to the Third Division, Brown insists he and his team-mates will savour their achievement with just as much vigour and satisfaction as they did 12 months ago.

“I will definitely be making sure the lads celebrate as much as ever, don’t worry about that,” he said. “People keep asking if this season is different for us, but it’s not different in the slightest.

“Winning the title is winning the title. It has been hard all the way through the season. We had a lot of Champions League games, starting with the qualifying rounds. That’s going to be even harder next season, with three qualifiers to get through if we want to make it the group stage again.

“But I wouldn’t change this season for anything. We did so well in Europe, have virtually won the SPL now and also have the Scottish Cup final to look forward to. People will maybe say it has been easier this season than in others.

“But they don’t understand how hard it is on your body to play around 60 games in a season. Maintaining a high enough level of performance every week to win a title is tough.

“OK, we have lost a few home games in the league that were disappointing, but the main thing is just winning the title. It doesn’t matter if you win it by one point or by 12 points.

“I don’t know how our fans feel about it, but I would imagine winning the title is still huge for them too this season. If we win it on Sunday, then hopefully they will celebrate just as much as the players will.”