Scott Brown bids to banish Malmö defeat negativity

Scotland captain Scott Brown is all smiles in Tbilisi yesterday. Picture: Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images
Scotland captain Scott Brown is all smiles in Tbilisi yesterday. Picture: Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images
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SCOTT BROWN will join an illustrious list of names in the Scottish international history books tonight when he captains his country for the 17th time.

It takes Brown into the top ten of those who have led Scotland into action, his tally now level with Paul Lambert and just five matches behind the ninth-placed Colin Hendry.

But the honour Brown craves most is to be in the side which takes Scotland back to a major tournament for the first time since Lambert and Hendry were part of the squad at the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

The Celtic captain goes into the Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia in Tbilisi on the back of a major disappointment at club level, having seen his hopes of Champions League football this season crushed by last week’s defeat in Malmö.

It was another setback for the overall reputation of Scottish football and Brown accepts a level of responsibility to restore faith in the standing of the national sport.

“The game’s been through hard times and we need to pick it up somehow,” said the 30-year-old midfielder. “So if we could reach the Euros in France next year and then aim for the World Cup two years after that, it would help. We need people to believe in Scotland again.

“We hear so many people being negative about Scottish football in general, especially over the last couple of weeks with the European club results and whatever, so we need to believe in ourselves more than ever.

“It’s a good thing for me to be here so soon after Malmö, because it spurs you on. It’s a different occasion in a lot of ways – but the same one for me, really.

“The Champions League is behind me now, this is a different team, different competition, different bunch of boys. But of course what happened last week drives you on. I wanted to get through and it’s a big, big miss.

“But now there is the chance to take Scotland to the Euros, we’re playing Germany at Hampden on Monday after this game in Georgia and there’s so much to look forward to. Last week was last week. We’re here to concentrate on Scotland now.

“People are always looking for the banana skin when we play. But it’s our job to think differently, to get the rest of the country believing in us and in the Scottish game.

“Of course it would be agonising if we didn’t make it to the Euros now after what has been such a good campaign, but that’s thinking about the negatives and we need to think positive.

“It’s not a case of thinking about blowing it. We’ve still got a few games to go and qualification is up for grabs.

“We’re a squad who really enjoys training and playing under a gaffer who’s so enthusiastic it’s unreal, so we need to take that into every game. Gordon Strachan has done a great job in that respect. He’s been incredible with us, with everyone.”

One of the biggest challenges facing Brown and his team-mates in Tbilisi will be the stifling heat, with the temperature expected to be not much less than 30 degrees even at the local kick-off time of 8pm tonight.

It evokes memories of the day Scotland’s 2010 World Cup qualification hopes melted in Skopje seven years ago when Brown was a member of the side which suffered a damaging 1-0 defeat by Macedonia.

“Aye, that was nice and cool!” he recalled. “It was lovely. There was me and Barry Robson in the middle of the park with two faces that looked like lobsters. We were dehydrated right away but you just need to deal with it.

“As a team, you can’t go chasing the opposition all the time and we will need to keep the ball better than we did that day.

“Georgia will try to use the conditions to their advantage. They’ll try and keep the ball and make us defend more and try to press them but when we’ve got the ball we’ll do the exact same to them – and we’ve got the players who can make things happen in the blink of an eye.”