Scott Brown: Festive fixtures key to my Scotland future

Scott Brown has revealed a decision on the future of his international career will be based on how he copes with Celtic's gruelling December schedule of fixtures which continues at home to Hamilton Accies tonight.

Celtic captain Scott Brown in training ahead of the Premiership clash with Hamilton at Celtic Park. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The Celtic captain will make his 30th club appearance of the campaign as the Scottish champions look for a win which would extend their lead at the top of the Premiership to 11 points.

Brown announced his retirement from international football at the start of this season in order to focus on both Celtic and his family commitments. But after missing Scotland’s first three World Cup qualifiers, the 31-year-old midfielder agreed to return to Gordon Strachan’s squad for last month’s 3-0 defeat to England at Wembley.

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He remains uncertain as to whether that was simply a one-off, but has admitted he will be inclined to carry on with Scotland if he continues to cope as well as he currently is with the physical demands of Celtic’s fixture list.

Tonight’s game will be Brown’s fourth in the last 13 days, before he has an enforced rest when he is suspended for the visit of Dundee to Celtic Park on Saturday. He then faces another run of four games in 12 days this month, culminating in the Old Firm match at Ibrox on Hogmanay.

Brown will then take time to reflect during the January winter break, when Celtic will travel to Dubai for a nine-day warm weather training camp, on his Scotland future ahead of the must-win qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden on 
26 March.

“I will obviously make my decision before that squad is named and I’ve told Gordon we will speak in January about it,” said Brown.

“This is the big month for me as far as that’s concerned. If I can get through these eight games in December feeling good, then it turns my head a wee bit [towards Scotland]. But if injuries creep in and my body feels a bit tight, then it pushes it the other way.

“I’ll see how it is after December 31 and see how I feel after six or seven days off and then the mid-season training camp. There are so many games this month that it will batter my body, but I am feeling good right now.

“I feel fit and I want to continue the way I am now. I don’t want to be just as 85 per cent or 90 per cent every week. I want to use all of my energy and enjoy my football. That is the way I have been playing this season. I have been enjoying it and that has shown on the park.

“The games are tapering off after New Year and we will then get pretty much a Saturday to Saturday schedule. We will get rest and recovery. We have had the mid-week games and the Champions League games and the constant pressure on us to perform at that level and we want to maintain that level of performance for as long as possible.”

Brown, meanwhile, has backed his Scotland team-mate Leigh Griffiths to cope with the frustration of losing his status as Celtic’s first choice striker this season to Moussa Dembele.

Griffiths made his first start for a month in Friday night’s 4-1 win at Partick Thistle, scoring once and providing two assists. But Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers stressed that Griffiths cannot be assured of an extended run in the side, despite his 40-goal tally as top scorer last season.

“Leigh is mentally very tough and he has been fine,” said Brown. “He works hard in training and you know that if he is not going to be first choice every week, he is going to try everything to prove to the gaffer that he should be.

“It was good for him to get back to scoring goals and setting them up against Thistle. It shows he has got a lot more to his game and he is going to push Moussa all the way.”