The experienced midfielder had announced his retirement from international football in the summer but, having missed the first three World Cup qualifying matches, he made it known that he was having second thoughts. National boss Gordon Strachan said he had been made aware of Brown’s change of heart a couple of weeks ago and, after chatting with the player, as well as a few of the more experienced members of the Scotland set-up, had no hesitation in adding him to the group who will attempt to upset the Auld Enemy and get the World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.
“You hear rumours in the background,” said Strachan. “People were speaking to him within the backroom staff and the word got back from different people that he would like to put his name forward again. I said if Broony wanted to give me a call then fine. We did that, spoke, done, back again. No promises of a game. No promises of this or that. But let’s get together.”
So far, Scotland have beaten Malta 5-1 away, drawn 1-1 with Lithuania at Hampden and lost 3-0 in Slovakia, leaving them fourth in Group F, three points behind leaders England. Strachan added: “I was asked the question of whether it would have made a difference to results if he had been playing.
“You never know. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I think there are a few players who have retired before and come back. I think Paul Scholes had retired from Man United and Sir Alex [Ferguson] said: ‘Hey, get yourself back here as that would be handy.’ That can be down to the mind-set of players. Sometimes you think you have had enough and then you think that you do miss it.”
“Scott is in a different place to where he was when he retired,” said Strachan, suggesting that the negativity and niggling injuries that had been dogging him last season may have affected his thinking.
“At this minute, he is in a right good place, a far better place than he was,” added Strachan.
“That can happen to a player at 30. I was like that myself at Man United, thinking at one point that it was hard. Three years later it was like ‘woah’ because football had become easy again. Any injury doubts have been dispelled, as have any self-doubts that came from that.
“I understood his decision at that time. I respected that. And I respect the decision he has made now.”
Although Strachan is happy to welcome back the 50-times capped player, the Scotland manager insisted that West Brom’s Darren Fletcher would retain the captaincy and stressed that he had been careful to seek the opinion of squad regulars to ensure they would be willing to accommodate Brown’s return.
“I’ve got to say I didn’t see it being a problem but I did check, and the reaction was so positive it wasn’t true,” said Strachan.
He added that he values the team ethic and togetherness in his set-up and would not have countenanced any risk to that.
“If I thought there was any doubt about it, anything that would break the harmony in our squad wouldn’t be allowed,” added Strachan
But he would not be drawn into making any hard and fast predictions about just how long Brown now intends to remain on the international scene.
Asked if Brown had returned purely for the important, glamour tie against England, the Scotland manager said: “Between now and the game, we are going to enjoy the challenge and the excitement of it.
“What happens afterwards is that you get a debrief. Then you go: ‘Where do we go from here?’.
“I think we’ll have a clearer picture after the game of where everybody wants to go after that.
“There are no promises of this, that and everything. It might be the best way, because sometimes you make a decision and you have to go ‘Oh, I might change my mind again’. We’ll have a look at if after that. But it’s good to have him back.”