Scott Brown has been the renaissance man in Scottish football since the summer of 2016.
In April of that year the Celtic captain toiled and trudged his way through the team’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers. He was bettered by the likes of Jason Holt and Andy Halliday on that day at Hampden Park.
Obituaries were being penned for Brown’s Celtic career. He was turning 31 that year and had been beset with knee and hamstring injuries during that campaign. The intensity which defines him, makes him the player he is, was missing.
Brown thrives on intensity and hard work. It is that, rather than rest or the “slow” training under Ronny Deila which gives the player energy.
The player missed 21 matches during Deila’s final season through injury. In the proceeding two seasons the number of matches missed with an injury can be counted on one hand, with Brown full of praise for Brendan Rodgers’ training, calling it “night and day”compared the Norwegian.
Ahead of the first season under the Northern Irishman the player retired from international football to help him give 100 per cent to Celtic. That decision was quickly overturned.
Yet, earlier this year retired from Scotland for the second time.
“I felt that, given the demands which are increasing all the time in football and at this stage of my career, I wasn’t able to give both my club and country my best and I needed to focus purely on Celtic at this time,” he told Celtic’s website.
“The football calendar is more and more demanding now, and in terms of looking after my own body and in interests of my family, I felt now is the right time to take this decision.”
This season he has been an ever present for Celtic, until Thursday night when he missed the 3-1 defeat to FC Salzburg in Austria.
No player has played more minutes in the Ladbrokes Premiership this season than Brown, while he had featured for every single minute of Celtic’s current campaign. So on top of the seven league fixtures, there has been six Champions League qualifiers, two Europa League qualifiers, a Europa League group stage match and two Betfred Cup fixtures.
Yet, he did so despite suffering from an Achilles issue at the start of the season.
In August, Rodgers said: “He will soldier on like he always does, and play himself out of it. We will see how Scott is with it. Sometimes players work better when they are in rhythm.
“But he had exactly the same thing this time last year, so I think it is just a case of getting through it over these next two to three weeks, and hopefully it will be fine.
He added: “You get to that stage in your life and your career where you know you aren’t 21 or 22, and the brain starts to talk to you a little bit more.
“Then you recognise you need to maximise things every time you train and every time you play.”
It is a huge compliment to Brown that he has been stationed in the centre of midfield at every possible opportunity this season. He is such an influential figure in the team, especially in terms of the team’s mentality. But is has to be remembered that he is 33 year old.
Perhaps it is a symptom of the club’s struggles with recruitment that he has been relied upon more than Rodgers anticipated, especially as Youssouf Mulumbu, who impressed against Salzburg, didn’t sign until transfer deadline day.
Brown is the type of individual who wants to play every single second of every single minute of every single match and a high intensity. And it is this high intensity which Rodgers requires in his team. So there has to be some give.
He has shown his understanding of the physical, as well as mental, demands that playing for a club the size of Celtic, with their current style, entails by his decision to retire from the international scene.
As previously mentioned the player has talked about his need to be on it every single day but it has come the time where more balance is desirable. To miss a training session here or a game there should energise Brown further for those days when he trains and plays.
The more Mulumbu adapts and finds his feet at Celtic Park the more beneficial it will be to Rodgers who has an clear option to rest Brown. In turn it will benefit Brown, not only long-term but short-term to as he will be able to operate at that higher intensity in crucial games.
And that will be of benefit to Celtic as a whole.