Celtic’s skipper announced his international retirement in the summer, citing the physical demands of his club commitments which tonight see him leading his team-mates into a crucial Champions League showdown with Barcelona.
But, after missing Scotland’s first three matches of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, Brown agreed to rejoin Gordon Strachan’s squad for the game against England at Wembley two weeks ago.
Speaking at length about the situation for the first time since that 3-0 defeat, Brown conceded he remains unsure whether he will continue to make himself available to his country for the rest of the Group F schedule which resumes with a home fixture against Slovenia in March.
The 31-year-old midfielder’s flip-flopping on his Scotland career has provoked significant disquiet among many observers, including Stoke City midfielder Charlie Adam who claimed Brown’s sudden return to the fold sent out the wrong signals to other players.
But Brown has hit back at Adam, claiming his comments were driven by envy as he is currently not part of Strachan’s plans.
“Everyone has got their opinion at the end of the day,” said Brown. “Whether I listen to it or not is a different story. Charlie was just a wee bit jealous because he wasn’t in the squad. It was maybe a thing between him and Gordon and he has chucked my name in as well. So tell him ‘cheers’ for that.
“I don’t know if it was a one-off or not. But I’m glad Gordon has stayed on as manager. I think that’s huge for the country because if you look out there, there is no one who could do a better job.
“For myself, I need to see how the next round of games are going to go with Celtic before the next Scotland game in March. For myself, I need to make sure my body is as well as possible. Me and Gordon will chat before then and see what is happening. But I haven’t made any decision whatsoever.
“We’ll just take it as it comes because it’s all about how many games I play. For me, it’s not about holidays, it’s about rest. I had five or six weeks off in the summer and it was the best I’ve felt when I came back.
“So if I play with Scotland, we play England on 10 June next summer and then Celtic are back in for pre-season training on 20 June. I need to think for myself and be a bit selfish, to be fair. I need to think ‘can I make this game, have ten days’ holiday and push on from there?’ or take four weeks off and see how my body is. I’m not getting any younger at the end of the day. There are other people doing it down in England, so we’ll just wait and see what happens.
“I would never have come back for any other manager. I’m very stubborn that way. I would have sat there, said ‘No’ and made sure my body was right for Celtic. At the end of the day, Celtic were the ones who put me out on the field and made me available for Scotland in the first place. I’ve got a lot to thank them for.
“It’s kind of a hard one because me and Gordon are so close. You want to keep the wee man happy but I’ve also got to be selfish sometimes and look after my body.”
Brown is hoping for a change of fortune against Barcelona at Celtic Park tonight, having endured a series of personal disappointments in the recent history of Champions League meetings between the clubs.
Sickness forced him to miss Celtic’s celebrated 2-1 win in 2012, then he was sent off for kicking Neymar, pictured above, when Barcelona won 1-0 in Glasgow the following year. Brown then suffered the ignominy of leading Celtic to their heaviest ever European defeat when they were crushed 7-0 in the Nou Camp two months ago.
“I wouldn’t mind a bit of luck against them,” he said. “I wasn’t well in 2012 and sending me home that day was probably the best thing that Neil Lennon ever did, because we won 2-1! A lot of people think I played in the game and I don’t tell them anything different if they ask me about it – it wasn’t Miku who played that night, it was me! Seriously, it was a great night for the club and we want to try and do the same this time.
“We need to make sure we turn up. If we don’t, then the same thing could happen as the last time in the Nou Camp. They do have great players and if we switch off for five or ten minutes you know what will happen.
“We need to focus for 90 minutes, make sure we are solid all over the park and be brave on the ball.”