Scott Brown's ten years at Celtic '“ a lasting impact

The several clock faces tattooed on Scott Brown's left arm would suggest he is alert to the concept of time. But can it really be ten years since he joined Celtic from Hibs? Even the Parkhead skipper finds it hard to believe.

Scott Brown celebrates Celtic's 5-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox last month.
Scott Brown celebrates Celtic's 5-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox last month.

If he leads Celtic to the Scottish Cup, and therefore a treble, a week on 
Saturday it will be the 12th major honour he has won at the club, the majority of them as captain.

It has been a productive decade-long spell at Celtic for the midfielder and he sees no reason why it should come to an end soon.

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Brown acknowledges there have also been setbacks and difficulties at the club, where he has had to learn new tricks to grow into the dominant force he has become.

“There have been ups and there have been downs – but there have been a lot more ups than downs,” he said.

Brown was, he admitted, a “cocky little p****” when he signed on the dotted line at Parkhead ten years ago today. Unusually he played one more game for Hibs – against Celtic. He was cheered by the visiting supporters despite scoring in a 2-1 victory for the home team at Easter Road. But while there was clearly excitement at his capture – particularly since it meant putting one over Rangers, original favourites to sign Brown – few Celtic fans could have foreseen the lasting impact he would have on their club.

“I remember sitting in my agent’s house in Bishopbriggs and he said everything was done and dusted,” Brown, now 31, reflected yesterday.

“We were just waiting for a game to finish and for me to go and meet (chief executive) Peter Lawwell to sign the forms. It was all done and dusted and nobody knew, which was good as I was still playing for Hibs at the time.”

It was the first time he passed on the opportunity to head down south. There was one reason for that – Gordon Strachan, pictured, The then Celtic manager has become the main influence in Brown’s career, although the relationship he shares with current manager Brendan Rodgers has been a major factor in his recent 
rejuvenation.

But it was Strachan who first sought to make Brown apply some discipline to his game without compromising his natural enthusiasm. “Gordon taught me how to play in a position. He played a 
4-4-2 at the time and made me more of a defensive midfielder rather than an attacker and I used my legs at the back.

“It was about making interceptions, making tackles, keeping the ball and keeping moving by doing the simple things. From Gordon starting that and working down the years with different managers, I’m still learning now how to play in different positions and different formations.”

Brown quickly realised there was a completely different intensity to playing at Celtic compared to Hibs, which he described as “like going out to play with my mates”. He soon learned about the new level of expectation at Celtic.

“It was part and parcel of it as you’re never going to win the league with Hibs,” he said. “As soon as I arrived at Celtic I felt the expectation levels going through the roof.

“The first game I played was against Kilmarnock at home and we drew. We came in after the game and we were disappointed. But at Hibs it would be okay, as there was always next week.”

Missing the tail-end of the first of six title-winning seasons at Celtic through suspension underlined to Brown how he had to change his game. With Strachan’s help he became cannier.

“Gordon sat down with me and we spoke about it and I went on to have one of my best seasons the next year,” he recalled. “I felt as if I owed him.

“Everyone knew I was a wee bit immature when I signed, and it was more on the field than anything.

“Instead of following the man back I would end up trying to win the ball and mistiming the tackle, picking up silly bookings and that sort of thing. It was just about changing small parts of my game to improve everything, that’s why I owe him (Strachan).”

Of course, the conversation turned to how long Brown can keep going. He looks in the best shape of his life and has obviously benefited from his recent break. Clearly he hasn’t completely learned how to curb his enthusiasm. But the ban permitting him to spend a few days at a Center Parcs last week was helpful as it came at just the right time – after securing the league title and before a Scottish Cup final date with Aberdeen and crucial World Cup qualifier for Scotland against England.

So how long will he keep playing? Strachan led Leeds United to the English title 25 years ago at the age of 35.

“He keeps reminding me that he played to 40,” said Brown. “He said ‘You’re 31 and you’re flying, you need to get it out of everybody’s head that you’re too old before your time and play as long as you can. I played until I was 40’.

“And I was like ‘Aye I know gaffer, we all know you played until you were 40!’

“I probably couldn’t play as well as he did when he was 40, but I’ll give it a right good go and I will play as long as I possibly can.”