Dominic Matteo: Scott Brown could have made it in England

He would never provide the spit but Scott Brown offers Scotland a polish that is too often overlooked, according to Dominic Matteo.

Scott Brown celebrates with  Leigh Griffiths after Scotland's 2-0 victory over Malta.
Scott Brown celebrates with Leigh Griffiths after Scotland's 2-0 victory over Malta.

The former Scotland midfielder believes the deep-lying midfield duties performed by the Celtic captain make him responsible for a role that has become the lynchpin of successful sides in the modern era when sides go forward with abandon. Matteo points to the fortunes of N’Golo Kante, who has won the English Premier League with two different teams in the past two seasons.

Former Liverpool and Leeds United midfielder Matteo, in Glasgow yesterday to conduct the last-16 draw of the Irn Bru Cup, believes that Brown could have thrived in the same domain as Kante, pictured. And Matteo has no doubt the revival of Scotland’s World Cup prospects can be attributed to the relationship Brown has with national manager Gordon Strachan. That relationship was pivotal in the midfielder’s self-imposed international exile last year ending inside three months.

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“Brown goes under the radar a little bit, especially in England, as he does not get talked about much,” Matteo said. “He is top pro and top player and he really influences the Celtic and Scotland squads. His drive from the midfield is very important to Scotland. Scott could have made it as a player in the English Premier League.

“He would have been a huge loss to Celtic if he had decided to do that in his career. He has a winning attitude and he is a born leader and a good captain. I love those qualities in a player. It is great to have people like that in your team. His workrate is second to none and he is a winner as you can see it written all over his face. He doesn’t want to get beat. Every team needs a player like 
him in it.

“Scott proved himself against England and there was a lot of pressure on him going into that match at Hampden, but he proved that he could cut it in that company He is a good player and he should get more credit. I am surprised that nobody in the EPL took a punt on him.

“I feel that the position he plays is massive in British football. The position he plays for Celtic and Scotland wins titles in England.

“That sitting, defensive midfielder who can break things up and give it and go. You only need to look at N’Golo Kante who did that at Leicester City and then Chelsea, and he has won two Premier Leagues.

“I think a lot of that was down to him and his positional sense and the way he breaks things up.

“I am not saying Scott is Kante but that position is very important within any squad and certainly within the English Premier League.

The game is so attacking that full-backs are basically wing-backs, bombing on all the time, so you need players to sit back in front of the back four or two or three centre halves and just do a professional job.

“Also, though, he has to be able to pass it and I think Scott Brown can pass it. When he wins it back, he can play an intelligent ball, and he can keep it.

“I don’t see him having many bad games. You can judge players by that. Some top players have four bad games and an unbelievable game. With Brown you see a lot of consistency in his football.”

On Monday night, after being spat on by Malta’s Steve Borg, Brown showed maturity by not reacting.

In doing so, he spared himself the booking that would have led to his suspension for the monster game at home to Slovakia next month that, coupled with the Slovenia away date three days later, Gordon Strachan’s side must win to reach the World Cup play-offs.

Matteo believes Brown was leading by example as Strachan’s link man, which he believes the player will be behind the scenes in international weeks.

“Scott’s come out of retirement for him, so it shows the working relationship that they have,” said Matteo.

“It just shows how close they are and it’s good to have that captain-manager relationship.

“That has to be good, especially at international level. As captain, you can then go off and speak to the players, and for them it is sometimes easier to hear instruction from a team-mate than manager.

“That’s my experience. It is easier to hear things off a mate than your boss. Sometimes it helps – even if it is just throwing things into conversation over a cup of tea.

“I remember doing that towards the end of my career when I went to Stoke. I was talking to all the young 
players. I felt like I was talking to them most days over a cup of tea or something to eat and that’s how you’ve got to be.

“ I think Scott Brown is doing a fantastic job with that for Scotland.”