Scotland boss: It was mistake for Pedro Caixinha to anger Scott Brown

Don't make him angry '“ you won't like him when he's angry. Had Gordon Strachan been offering any advice to Pedro Caixinha ahead of Saturday's Old Firm showdown at Ibrox, he might have chosen to paraphrase the slogan used by comic strip character The Hulk.

Gordon Strachan heaped praise on Scott Brown. Picture: PA
Gordon Strachan heaped praise on Scott Brown. Picture: PA

Whatever reaction Rangers manager Caixinha was seeking when he chose to square up at half-time to Scott Brown, Celtic’s very own green-clad action hero, Strachan knows the only and inevitable response was the exceptionally dominant display the midfielder produced in the second 45 minutes to steer his team to their 2-0 victory.

“There are some players who, if you make them angry, they get better,” observed Strachan. “Making them angry just makes them better. Broony is one of them. They become more focused.”

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As Strachan looks to guide Scotland successfully through their last two World Cup Group F qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia next month, he regards the current form and influence of Brown as an inestimable bonus.

The 32-year-old’s rapid reversal of his decision to retire from international football a year ago has been a significant factor in Scotland manager Strachan reviving a campaign which at one stage appeared utterly doomed.

Having signed him from Hibs as Celtic manager a decade ago, Strachan knows Brown as well as anyone in the game. But even he admits that anyone trying to get inside Brown’s head and disrupt his focus is wasting their time.

“Scott has no reaction to whatever you say to him,” added Strachan. “I remember saying to Garry Pendry, my assistant at Celtic, ‘I think we should get a doctor to see him.’ Scott just kept staring at me! It doesn’t matter if you are calling him the best player in the world or the worst player in the world, his expression would stay the same. It’s a bit off-putting at times.

“But he wouldn’t still be here at this level if he didn’t have that ability to perform so well under pressure. He’s got big games all the time at Celtic, that’s one thing you can guarantee – whether it’s in the league, European games, Old Firm games or whatever.

“You don’t last that long unless you can deal with big games. Some players go to Celtic and can’t deal with big games. He never had that problem.

“He started off as a guy who could defend or attack. I remember he scored a great goal for Hibs against Celtic, running past people.

“He’s figured out what he’s good at and other coaches have helped him and he’s taken it on board. Through the years he’s picked up information, kept it in his head and got better. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with his attitude. I can’t recall him being sent off for me as a manager.

“I don’t see much difference to the guy now. I do see more professionalism off the park. He realises now he’s a role model to everyone, being the captain of Celtic and Scotland. His overall professionalism 
is better.

“I keep going back to the training session we had before the recent England game. The fitness coach was having a heart attack. I wanted to see how fit some of them were and we did a running session and Broony asked me what I was doing.

“I told him he should know, as he’d seen it many times at Celtic. He then joined in – but he didn’t need to as he’d been told to rest. But when he did it others did it – Robert Snodgrass joined in, others joined in and before I knew it we had 22 running when it was only meant for eight.

“That was all down to the leadership of the captain and it’s a great thing. I see his maturity more off the pitch than on it. The boys love him, the coaching staff love him. That’s why nothing was made of him coming back with us after retiring, nothing at all.”

There were no great surprises in the 26-man squad named by Strachan yesterday for the pivotal fixtures against Slovakia at Hampden on 5 October and Slovenia in Ljubljana three days later.

Norwich City pair Russell Martin and Steven Naismith, who have not been playing regularly for their club, both dropped out while there was a recall for Leeds United captain Liam Cooper. The 26-year-old, pictured right, was previously an unused substitute in friendly matches against Denmark and Canada.

While Christophe Berra and Charlie Mulgrew have performed well as a central defensive partnership in Scotland’s recent matches, Strachan would have no qualms about handing a debut to Cooper who has been instrumental in helping Leeds top the English Championship this season.

“It’s nice to have another Scot as Leeds captain, maybe that’s why I picked him, subconsciously,” laughed Strachan, a former skipper of the Elland Road club himself.

“Leeds are on a high at the moment and you try to bring in people who are on a high. We’re not taking a gamble on anyone, put it that way.

“He’s playing regularly every week, whereas last season he was in and out of the Leeds team. For the bigger lads at the back, it’s imperative they play regularly. I think the only negative result Leeds have had this season is when he wasn’t playing, so that shows you his influence on the team.

“He’s a good passer of the ball and he’s learning the game all the time. I think central defenders are at their best from about 28 until maybe 34, so it takes a lot longer to learn the game, where forwards can play off instinct.

“Liam is a good age but he’s ready to play now. I’m not here to bring them on. It’s got to be instant. I can’t say ‘Oh yeah, he’ll be good in two years’ time’ when I could be watching him on the telly in two years’ time. It has to be now.

“He could come in and play, no problem at all. We don’t have a surplus of central defenders available to us but the guys in the team have done well, especially considering Charlie Mulgrew is playing in League One now with Blackburn.

“Christophe Berra and Charlie have been smashing in the last few games. Christophe can be really pleased with himself and we all know what Charlie can do. Christophe has been really solid – and he’s a goal threat, as well.”