Scott Brown expects normal service to be resumed for Celtic

By his own admission, Scott Brown was among those Celtic players who were unusually subdued on Sunday. But he hadn't been ordered to make amends by serving behind a counter at the Celtic FC shop in Livingston yesterday.

Scott Brown helps to open the new Celtic store in Livingston. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Passers-by were doing a double take as they saw the Celtic skipper standing by the till at the newly opened store. Is this what happens the morning after coming up short against opponents who finished the game with three teenagers, they 
wondered?

It’s the likes of 16-year-old Harry Cochrane, Brown’s midfield adversary in the 4-0 defeat by Hearts, who might be expected to be serving behind a counter to earn some extra Christmas pocket
money. But no, Brown was fulfilling his captain’s duties on behalf of the club. Amid shelves stacked with merchandise, including a book paying tribute to the “Invincibles” of last season, he reassured Celtic fans that the team can bounce back against Partick Thistle tomorrow.

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It might not be something everyone desperate for a competitive title race wants to hear, but Celtic could have drawn eight points clear of Aberdeen, their current nearest challengers, by tea-time this Saturday. Brown was resisting any urge to panic while surrounded by stressed-out Christmas shoppers.

“It is one game in 19 months since we have been on this fantastic record,” he said. “There are a lot of teams who want to beat us and Hearts were the team who managed to do it. Fair play to them. On the day they deserved victory and they played to their strengths.

“We will continue to play the same way and go into the game on Wednesday and get back to the way we know we can play.

“That is the good thing about football. There is another game coming around the corner. If we win on Wednesday night everyone has forgotten about the Hearts game. We just need to make sure we bounce back and get a good performance and victory.

“It has still been a good season for us,” Brown added. “We have lost just one game. We were pretty much unbeaten until Hearts there. We have probably not played as well as we could have this season – there has been a couple of sloppy games against Hibs and Hearts there but it is time for us to kick on now.”

Brown agreed he was quieter than normal against Hearts, where he was up against Prince Buaben and Don Cowie, as well as Cochrane. “I think everyone was,” he said. “Once we went 2-0 down it was hard and we lost the third goal early on. We had just started the second half really well and created a couple of chances then they go up the park and score a goal. It is always a bit disappointing that. But we need to bounce back now and our game is Wednesday in front of the home fans. We need to put on a show so they can enjoy the game.

“We don’t like losing four goals,” he 
added. “I think it is the first time we have not scored a goal in a league game since the manager came in and that was slightly
disappointing as well.”

While it was not a completely unusual
sensation for Brown to wake up the morning after a defeat, he hasn’t had to process a loss to Scottish opposition for 19 months. “We have been defeated in the Champions League and stuff like that, so you always take a moment to reflect,” he said. “You watch games back and understand where we went wrong and what we can do better.

“I don’t think we won our battles all over the park and we did not manage to keep the ball. We are a team based on possession and making chances and we did not do that well enough.”

It wasn’t possible to let Brown get back to his promotional duties before asking for his views on Cochrane. Hearts fans have already composed a song detailing
how the teenager keeps the Scotland skipper in his pocket along with his “widget fidget, comb and bags of sweets”.

As Craig Levein pointed out himself, Brown was once young himself. He could surely appreciate, if not enjoy, the way Cochrane handled such a high-octane occasion, scoring Hearts’ – and his – first goal.

Remarkably, Brown made his debut for Hibs just the year after Cochrane was born. He was a slightly more ancient 18 when he scored his first goal, against 
Livingston, a few weeks later.

“It is great for Scottish football to have young laddies coming through,” said Brown. “The more Scottish players coming through in the Scottish league the better it is for everyone I think.

“I am up against quite a lot of players,” he added.

“It is not just individual battles, it is about us closing gaps. He [Cochrane] played well on the day and he deserved the victory. Craig Levein got his tactics and his team spot on.”