Rival players are failing in what appears a concerted effort to bring Scott Brown to heel by mixing it with the Celtic captain, according to his team-mate, Callum McGregor.
Three players have now been dismissed for challenges on the 32-year-old enforcer in the past four games, following Andrew Davies’s sending-off on Saturday.
The Ross County captain received a straight red card for what looked like a malicious jabbing of his boot into Brown’s groin area during the Scottish champions’ 3-0 home win.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers branded the tackle a “disgrace” and “one of the worst I’ve seen since I was up here” and said the recent pattern suggested “one or two maybe trying to make a name for themselves by trying to put those sort of tackles in”.
McGregor believes any possible targeting by opponents of Brown is entirely misguided. “It’s obviously not working, is it?” he said. “They keep getting boys sent off. Maybe they are trying to target him and wind him up, but you can see the mature side of him. He is just trying to play his game and it ends up that they make the mistake, end up getting sent off and their team gets punished because of it.
“I saw [the Davies’ kick] but haven’t seen it back but I think [it] was a bad one from what the boys were saying. So the referee made a good decision.”
The abilities that Brown welds to bite and drive that have once more been instrumental in propelling Celtic to the cusp of another championship are often under-appreciated, says McGregor.
The Scotland international recognises his captain’s contribution to potentially another treble-winning season is unlikely to see him earn a player-of-the-year accolade from fellow professionals because of his reputation as a player who spoils for a fight. “He’ll never get voted. Maybe he needs to calm down a bit,” the 25-year-old joked. “No, he has been excellent for us and we are delighted to have him. I think, if you ask anybody, they will respect what he has done at this club. To be at that level for ten-plus years is incredible. He is a massive inspiration and a great example for our boys.
“I think a lot of people actually underestimate how good a player he is as well. Everybody mentions his work rate and the intensity of everything he does, but he is actually a really good footballer as well. You can see that in the Champions League games when his pass success rate is always massive. It’s credit to how good a footballer he is as well.”