Brown was back where it all started in Fife yesterday, cutting the ribbon to officially open John Thomson Park in Cardenden, named after the Celtic goalkeeper who tragically died after a collision with Rangers player Sam English in 1931.
Thomson was from Cardenden and the fully enclosed, floodlit 3G pitch is designed for use by locals. In particular it’s to help those keen youngsters looking to emulate both Brown and Thomson. Fife’s budding footballers will have to truly excel to match Brown’s achievements. Currently in the form of his life, the 32-year-old is far from finished.
Despite winning against France in Paris, skippering his country and landing six successive titles with Celtic, Brown believes a best career moment could still lie ahead. Celtic’s Champions League clash in Paris provides him with a chance to create some more special memories in the city.
He answered with a very confident “yes” when asked if winning for the second time in the Parc des Princes would stand as the better result. Brown was a valuable member of the Scotland side that humbled France there under Alex McLeish a decade ago last week.
James McFadden’s opportunistic goal from 35 yards deservedly stole the limelight but Brown and his teammates dug in well, carrying out the spadework in the 1-0 victory.
“I ran about silly for 90 minutes, got three touches of the ball and defended really well and Faddy got an unbelievable goal, which Craig Gordon told me today he assisted…that sums it up pretty much,” Brown smiled.
A lot of perspiration mixed with a pinch of inspiration – a Leigh Griffiths free-kick perhaps? – could be the recipe for success again tomorrow.
“They’ve spent a lot of money, they want to win the Champions League,” said Brown of PSG. “They look like the team to beat just now. If we go over there and get any sort of result, it would be fantastic for us.”
It seemed surreal to hear Brown speak in Cardenden while knowing that he would be taking on the might of Neymar & Co just 48 hours later. The Celtic skipper gladly gave up his time and had words of support for all the local school pupils who gathered for the occasion, even those wearing Rangers tops.
“Being in Fife, that’s what happens,” he quipped. Brown recalled playing football in dark streets in nearby Hill of Beath, where he grew up, and noted how the new facilities will make a difference for those who share his enthusiasm for the game. He hoped some might grow up to play for Scotland, too.
According to Brown, France were the best team in the world on the famous night they were downed by Scotland in Paris. While this was not their official status – Raymond Domenech’s team were ranked fourth at the time – they were recently World Cup finalists, and were overwhelming favourites to take care of the visitors in the Euro 2008 qualifier.
Scotland’s equally memorable triumph over France in the home fixture the previous year meant it seemed even less likely they would prevail in Paris. But prevail they did, to go top of the group. “It will go down as one of the best nights in my Scotland career so far,” said Brown.
Asked where it ranked overall, he replied: “It is definitely up there – playing against top quality players. I mean, jeez, I played against Anelka and Malouda, that was just on their left side.
“Me and Hutts [Alan Hutton] both played right-back. Nobody went forward. We took a man each and defended and hoped they didn’t get past us. We did enough to get away with a 1-0 and Craigie (Gordon) was brilliant again in goal.”
Two of the Scotland XI that evening will return to the Parc des Princes tomorrow for Celtic’s Champions League Group B fixture – Brown and Gordon. Clearly much of the spotlight falls on the front three of Neymar and his attacking cohorts Kylian Mbappe and Edison Cavani.
But PSG’s midfield trio can’t be dismissed – certainly not if you’re up against them like Brown.
Although one of Celtic’s better performers in the 5-0 defeat at Celtic Park in September, Brown still found the going tough against Marco Veratti, Adrien Rabiot and Thiago Motta, pictured.
“They drop deep to get on the ball and they get into areas where you don’t want to go if you’re a midfielder, so they create space for the front three – and the front three’s movement is phenomenal as well,” he said.
While it’s easy to say while standing such a long way from Paris in every sense, Brown expects Celtic to display more aggression than in their first group game.
“When they were playing one or two touch in their own box against five of our men, we were trying to press,” Brown recalled. “There is a point where you just have to back off and let them have the ball. I think on Wednesday we have to go a bit more aggressive in the tackle, get a bit closer to them and be a bit braver on the ball.”