Scott Brown has promised to make a decision about his Scotland future during the winter break and former team-mate Paul Hartley believes the midfielder has earned the right to be selective.
The impression that Brown is picking and choosing when to report for Scotland duty formed after he overturned a decision made in August to retire from the international scene to play in November’s World Cup qualifying crunch match with England.
Brown has since put off making a decision about whether he is back for the rest of the campaign, which resumes against Slovenia in March, reasoning that he wanted to get Celtic’s hectic Christmas schedule out of the way first.
Hartley, speaking yesterday at a William Hill event at Hampden, believes this is fair since Brown has put his body on the line for Scotland on several occasions since making his debut alongside the current Dundee manager in 2005 against the United States.
“Probably Scott has played in Scotland games when he has been injured over the years,” said Hartley. “We have to look at that too. He has probably played through the pain a lot of the times. He has had problems with his ankle over the last few years so he has definitely played in Scotland games where he has not been 100 per cent. I think we have got to give him that time.”
Celtic were involved in nine matches in December and jet off to Dubai at the end of this week for a winter training camp. Brown is believed to be planning to judge whether his body can cope with the extra exertion of future Scotland commitments while he is with Celtic in the Middle East.
Hartley is comfortable with this situation and can’t understand why others, including outspoken critic Charlie Adam, aren’t too.
Adam questioned whether it was right that Brown could return for what potentially is only one game. The Stoke City midfielder, who has been snubbed by Strachan since playing against Qatar in 2015, suggested it was one rule for Brown, and another rule for others.
Hartley, who won 25 caps for Scotland, believes this shouldn’t even be an issue. The 30-year-old Brown has proved he is good enough and he is trusted by Strachan, who signed the midfielder as well as Hartley for Celtic.
“It wouldn’t have bothered me,” said Hartley. “Scott’s probably looked at it and thought his body’s taken a lot over the past few years and does he need international football? Then he’s maybe looked at us having to have our best players available [and reversed his decision]. But it wouldn’t have bothered me. Just having a good player in the team would have been enough for me.”
“He knows the manager inside out,” added Hartley. “I think Gordon knows him. I think Gordon would want him to stay on and I think he will stay on for the remainder of the campaign. I think it is important because we can still finish second, it is still a possibility.”
Hartley is conscious how it will look if Brown does decide to call time on his international career again before such a vital clash as against Slovenia. Scotland are in fifth place in Group F, four points behind their opponents in March, who are second behind England.
“Scott is experienced enough now and I do think he will stay on,” said Hartley. “Not that I have spoken to him. I would like him to stay on and see if we have a chance of finishing second.”