Brendan Rodgers believes Scott Brown’s decision to retire from international football will ultimately enable him to extend his club career at Celtic in a new role as a central defender.
The 31-year-old midfielder, who was captain of Scotland during the failed Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, made the unexpected announcement yesterday that he will no longer be available for selection by his country.
Brown had initially indicated a willingness to continue with Gordon Strachan’s squad for the forthcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers and earned his 50th and most recent cap in the Hampden friendly against Denmark in March.
But the Celtic captain has now decided the physical demands placed on him after several injury-affected seasons mean he must focus solely on the Scottish champions.
“It is great news for Celtic,” said Rodgers. “Celtic and his young family, who he can spend more time with now, will both benefit.
“Playing for both Celtic and Scotland would have had an impact, no doubt, on the quality of his game.
“With the decision he has made, looking forward I’d say he could play for Celtic for another four years at least. I also think he could play at centre-half – as a centre-half who understands the game and has it all in front of him. I had Jamie Carragher at Liverpool who was my best centre half at 35.”
Brown, who captained Scotland 21 times, made his debut as a 20-year-old Hibs player in a friendly against USA in 2005. He admitted he found it hard to inform Scotland boss Strachan, who signed him for Celtic in 2007, of his decision.
“Gordon has been one of the most influential people in my career and I did not want to let him or my country down but over the summer I had a lot of thinking to do,” said Brown.
“It’s no secret that I’ve suffered some injuries in my career and once you get over 30 you have to protect your body more. I’m not the type of player who can coast half-heartedly through a game – I give 100 per cent every time. Given the importance of this campaign for Scotland, and the challenges ahead at Celtic, I simply felt that I could not keep up both commitments without either my performances or recovery time suffering.
“Gordon understands this completely and I would hope the Scotland supporters understand my position, too.”
Strachan paid tribute to Brown’s contribution and accepted the reasons for his retiral.
“Scott is one of the most wholehearted players I’ve encountered and somebody who puts the team ahead of himself,” Strachan said.
“He is not the type to play within himself, either, and I understand and respect the decision he has taken. I have huge admiration for a player as selfless as he has been – to sacrifice family time and recovery time to help his country. We will miss Scott, no doubt about it, but football evolves and it provides an opportunity for others to step up [and] take that responsibility.”