by Johnny Connelly
Back in 2007, then Scotland Under-21 coach Rainer Bonhof warned that Scott Brown, despite his obvious talent, “needs to be calmed to avoid disciplinary problems”.
Almost seven years on, the German’s words seem to have gone unheeded.
On the one hand, Scott Brown displays all the qualities of a world-beater. He’s 110% committed, is full of pace, tackles hard, will run all night for his team, has an infectious personality, and presents a considerable attacking threat.
Sadly, there’s more. There’s a seemingly unshakeable petulance too. So severe is this negative aspect of Brown’s play that it’s undermining his ability, so much so that some Hoops fans are beginning to wonder if the dynamic midfielder is even fit to wear the captain’s armband.
Frustration, disappointment and anger resonated around Celtic Park in midweek when Scott Brown, in a moment of madness, foolishly swiped at Neymar, resulting in a straight red card, and the disintegration of any hopes Celtic had of taking any points from the Catalan giants.
Until that point, in keeping with Brown’s Jekyll and Hyde behaviour, the Scotsman was one of the best Celts on the park. His tireless running and positional discipline made life difficult for Barca. Celtic were always facing the improbable, but when Brown lashed out, the improbable became impossible.
Given the importance of the Barcelona match, surely a failing on the part of the captain in this way should set alarm bells ringing in Neil Lennon’s head. The role of captain at any club is a great honour, and is usually bestowed upon only those with the utmost levels of integrity and ability to lead the team on all fronts. Can you imagine the likes of Paul McStay, Tom Boyd, or Danny McGrain kicking out at Neymar in such a prestigious match? It just wouldn’t have happened.
This, when added to Brown’s back catalogue of petulant bookings and repeatedly taking the bait when befaced with a confrontational scenario surely makes his tenure as captain questionable. Impressive performances and a gutsy swagger will get you far, but there’s more to it when it comes to being handed the captain’s armband at a big club.
Lennon must know in his heart of hearts that Brown’s behaviour is unacceptable. Barca match aside, Brown’s name has been thrown in to match reports in Europe for negative aspects in Celtic’s two other big European games so far this season. Another petulant foul against Shahktar Karagandy, and a clumsy, off the ball incident against AC Milan (leading to the deciding goal), add to and underline the question marks around Brown’s professionalism.
It is understandable that Lennon doesn’t criticise his players in a brazen manner, but from his comments about the Brown incident, it seems as though he genuinely believes the player’s actions were justifiable.
The likes of Giorgios Samaras could fill in nicely as captain, and is debatably a better candidate. It’s clear that Celtic can’t afford a liability in the Champions League. They may get away with silly fouls and sloppy play against SPFL opposition, given the gulf in class between Celtic and the rest of the pack; but in the Champions League, Neil Lennon’s men are invariably the underdog, and would be punished for handing the opposition any ill-gotten advantage.
Brown is a terrific player, but how long are the fans and the manager expected to put up with reckless behaviour? The Hoops captain isn’t a budding, raw, rough around the edges project anymore. He’s a grown man, he’s the captain of Celtic, and Scotland.
Now’s the time to start acting like a captain.