Mark McGhee: England won't be happy about Scott Brown U-turn

Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee says England will not be happy about Celtic captain Scott Brown's change of heart over his international retirement.

Motherwell manager and Scotland assistant Mark McGhee at his pre-match press conference. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Motherwell manager and Scotland assistant Mark McGhee at his pre-match press conference. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

Scotland travel to Wembley on Friday 11 November for a World Cup qualifier against the Auld Enemy and McGhee said of Gareth Southgate’s side: “I’m sure they would prefer him not to play.”

Brown had a change of heart just over two months after calling an end to his Scotland career and will be in the Scotland squad for the Group F qualifier at Wembley.

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The 31-year-old told Scotland manager Gordon Strachan in August that he was no longer willing or able to put his body through the rigours of representing his country as well as having a demanding club career at Celtic. He watched on TV as Scotland won 5-1 in Malta before seeing their prospects of qualifying damaged by a 1-1 draw at home to Lithuania and a 3-0 defeat in Slovakia.

Strachan signed midfielder Brown for Celtic from Hibs and helped him cope with the loss of his sister to cancer during his first season at Parkhead. Brown has remained close to Strachan and volunteered to face the Auld Enemy with his mentor under pressure from the two previous results.

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee, who doubles as 
Strachan’s No 2, said “Scott has played against most of the England midfield many times, either with Scotland or in European games.

“They will know him and I’m sure they would prefer him not to play. But it’s how he affects other people around him as well. He makes other people better players.

“The decision to have him back is a no-brainer. There are no negatives to it.

“I was asked about him saying no then wanting to come back. However, the lad is entitled to his life and his own feelings and you forget the pressures someone like him has.

“I think Brendan Rodgers’ arrival at Parkhead was a significant factor in his decision, Broony seeing it and thinking, ‘This could be really exciting at Celtic and I want to be part of that. He probably wanted to give himself as good a chance as he could to be part of that’. Now, though, what I think he has realised is: ‘I can do this – I can be part of something 
exciting at Celtic Park and also do Scotland’. If that’s the case, then fine. I welcome him back with open arms. He’s the best player in Scotland – or, at least, the best Scottish player.”

Recalling Brown’s original decision, McGhee added: “I felt it was a shame, I felt he was too young and that he had more to give. He was too important to us and I also thought – and he’s subsequently discovered – that, with good management of his time and his energy, he would be able to do both.

“The other players will be delighted. When he stood down he did it for all the right reasons – it wasn’t like someone who did it because he wasn’t being picked.”