Scott Brown: Celtic captain should be backed not questioned by fans – Steven Pressley
|Venue: Celtic Park Date: Sunday, 28 September Kick-off:15:00 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland, live text updates on BBC Sport Scotland website|
Scott Brown’s place among the legends of Celtic’s history is guaranteed.
And as their captain attempts to defy his doubters once more who dare to claim he may be slowing down at the age of 35, former team-mate Steven Pressley believes his influence is greater than ever.
Opinion is divided among some fans on whether the veteran midfielder is perhaps nearing the end of his career, or simply getting back up to speed after the four-month shutdown.
But as Neil Lennon’s side pursue the record feat of 10 titles in a row, is Brown still indispensable?
Celtic’s ever-present captain
Brown has started all 10 of Celtic’s matches this season, lasting the duration in seven. His 850 minutes on the pitch is bettered by just one player – midfield colleague Callum McGregor, the team’s only other ever-present.
The former Scotland skipper is nearing 600 appearances for Celtic, having joined for a then club record £4.5m fee from Hibernian in 2007. And while his 30s brought international retirement – his final cap was three years ago – his domestic workload has remained high.
In each of the past four seasons, Celtic’s skipper has played at least 50 games, a constant presence as the club have hoovered up every domestic honour during an unprecedented period of dominance.
But amid a packed schedule this season, often with midweek matches, has he been overused? Pressley believes Brown’s age is irrelevant and that more – not less – work is advisable.
“It’s an interesting debate, because we talk of players getting to Brown’s age being over the hill and they need to be rested,” says Pressley.
“But if I knew at Scott’s age what I do now, I would have trained harder than ever before. It’s important at his age not to ease off but actually step it up. I don’t think 35 is a hindrance if you look after yourself properly.
“There’s a myth you need to be more careful at his age – I think the polar opposite.”
‘His influence is huge’
Brown’s disciplinary record this season is further fuel for his critics. He has accumulated six yellow cards – the same total as the rest of the squad combined.
The formation is another point of debate. A 3-5-2 is Lennon’s preferred set-up, but against opposing teams who sit back, Brown’s deployment as a deep-lying playmaker in front of a back three can be seen as too passive.
Pressley dismisses these arguments and points to Brown’s leadership and influence on and off the pitch as the reason why he remains integral.
“When you play in Scott’s position, an important aspect is tactical fouls that break up play or stop a counter-attack,” he says.
“I don’t think the formation is a real concern. If you’re aggressive with your full-backs and play a 4-2-3-1, you balance off with two midfielders, which still gives you four defensive players behind the ball. The numbers are very similar in a 3-5-2 with Brown sitting in front of the defence.
“People think you can just take him out and put somebody else in no problem. It might work for a game or two, but then when the going gets tough, you need Scott around to pull guys through the difficult times.
“You read a lot about statistical aspects these days, but the one thing you cannot measure is game influence. A captain who leads and inspires those around him, demands a higher level of performance, those qualities are immeasurable. Scott’s influence is huge.”
A question of loyalty
We’ve been here plenty of times before, of course. Brown seems to relish being written off, using it as motivation to roar back stronger than ever.
Pressley has watched the player evolve from a raw, frenetic, box-to-box midfielder to savvy lynchpin of Celtic’s nine-in-in-row and treble-treble winning side.
And while he is convinced Brown will once again defy the doubters, he believes he is deserving of more faith from supporters.
“It disappoints me when fans talk about loyalty,” says Pressley. “Celtic fans haven’t got a more loyal player, a guy more devoted to the cause, than Scott.
“People should be behind him. Supporters demand loyalty, but that needs to work both ways – you can’t be a hypocrite when a guy dedicates himself to the club and then there’s a slight downturn in performance.”