- Broony: 10 Years a Celt
WHEN Scott Brown signed for Celtic in May 2007 as a cocky 21 year old with an abundance of raw talent, few could have envisaged what he would go on to achieve as a player in the green and white hoops over the next decade. His £4.4m transfer from Hibs is still to this day the biggest transfer exchange between two Scottish clubs, and, it is fair to say he has been worth every single penny of that fee, despite having some bumps along the road. 415 appearances, 37 goals, 76 European games and 12 trophies later, he is still going strong as the driving force within the Champions' midfield. Yesterday marked the skipper's 10 year anniversary with the club, so I feel it is only fitting that in the week where he is celebrating such a tremendous milestone, we take a look back at the career (so far) of a modern day Celtic legend, with a look at the gaffer's who helped him along the way..
Early progress under Strachan:Gordon Strachan was entering his third successive term as Celtic manager in the summer of 2007. His squad were coming off the back of an impressive campaign both at home and abroad, where they had wrapped up not only a league and Scottish Cup double, but also a Last 16 Champions League place, falling only to eventual winners AC Milan in the San Siro during extra time. Strachan, or 'WGS' as he was often referred to, had assembled a squad with a varied mix of talent, from hardened players such as Stephen McManus and Paul Hartley, to those who could change the tide of a game in an instant, like Aiden McGeady and, of course, Shunsuke Nakamura. One thing that was always evident within Strachan's teams however, was the strong core of Scottish nationals. So it is perhaps not surprising that throughout the lead up to the summer transfer window of 2007, Celtic were continually linked with the two biggest talents in the country at the time, Hibs central midfield pairing of Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson.
Despite being very young, both players had racked up well over 100 appearances for the Leith based side, and, by the time it came to move on, were more than prepared to take the next step up in their careers. Both Celtic and their rivals from across the city were interested in taking the pair, and at one stage it seemed as though the Hoops had managed to win the race. In the end however, as we all know, the two friends parted ways to either side of the Glasgow divide, with only Brown managing to make the correct decision. Brown signed on the dotted line on the 16th of May 2007, and he arrived at Celtic Park with a heavy price tag, immediately putting pressure on the young midfielder. Despite scepticism over the fee from some, Brown was coming to Celtic off the back of a terrific season for Hibs, probably his best. He not only won the League Cup but managed to become the Scottish Football Writer's Young Player of the Year, and was a shining light within a young, exciting Hibs side led by John Collins. Upon signing, Brown had this to say;
His first season in the East End of Glasgow was to prove a frustrating one. Despite showing glimpses of the form many had hoped from him, Brown found consistency difficult throughout the course of the year, and, with Barry Robson arriving from Dundee United in January 2008, he lost his place at centre midfield for a crucial part of the second half of the season, unfortunately missing one of the most exciting title run ins for many a year. Nonetheless, Celtic wrapped up the title for a third season in a row, and Brown made 48 appearances across all competitions.
Brown celebrates his second Celtic goal, against St Mirren in September 2007
Season 2008/09 was to prove a more successful one for the midfielder, at least from a personal point of view. Despite Celtic failing to win the title for the first time in three years, Scott's form became more consistent and he was in turn awarded with the SPFA Player's Player of the Year Award, highlighting how highly his fellow professionals had valued his form over the season. The league cup was won thanks to a win over Rangers at Hampden, and Brown tasted Champions League football for a second season running, adding further to his European experience which was only set to grow in the year's to come. In total, he made 48 appearances once again, scoring an improved tally of 7 goals from a central position. His goal tally and overall style of play is perhaps an issue that is often debated, with some fans perhaps hoping he could have grown into a midfielder capable of consistently hitting double figures per season, particularly after his early showings at Hibs. However, for me, there is no doubting that the defensive and tactical awareness he learned under Strachan has greatly shaped the player he has become today, and he has in turn matured into a tactically aware footballer, while also being able to add that tenacity and aggression when needed, which has always been a part of his game.
Disappointment under Mowbray:After the departure of Gordon Strachan in 2009, Celtic appointed Tony Mowbray as his replacement, already well known to the Hoops faithful, mainly thanks to his hand in creating 'The Huddle'. Now, I won't spend too much time reminiscing over this 'wonderful' season, as we all know how it went. Mowbray's spell in charge of the club was an unmitigated disaster and in terms of Broony himself, he was plagued with injury throughout, making only 21 appearances in the league. However, the 2009/10 season did provide another personal milestone for him, as in February of 2010, he was appointed as club captain for the first time. His appointment proved the trust that Mowbray had in him, particularly at a time when the ship was sinking very fast for the big Englishman. He was sacked a month later in March, and replaced on a temporary basis by Neil Lennon. Celtic would go on to finish the season without a trophy, a feat that they had not managed for 7 years prior. Despite the obvious failure of his spell in charge, Brown can at least thank Mowbray for being the man to first hand him that yellow arm band we now all associate with the skipper.
Brown and Mowbray in training
Leadership Under Lenny:After taking over from Mowbray, Neil Lennon managed to impress the Celtic board enough for them to offer him the role on a permanent basis. He became the manager in June 2010, and set about transforming a squad which had been left badly bruised by the previous season. As for Brown, he was going through one of the most difficult spells of his Celtic career. Plagued by an ankle injury the previous year and struggling for form once again, many amongst the Celtic support were questioning his place within the side and his role as captain. Lennon stood firm on the subject however, and retained Scott as captain heading into the 2010/11 season. It was a show of confidence once again from another manager in the leadership capabilities of the midfielder. Perhaps Lennon even saw some similarities in Brown with him. A tenacious, aggressive, vocal leader in the midfield, who gave everything for the cause on the park, there's definitely a comparison to be made between the two.
The next 4 seasons under Lennon's guidance were to prove successful ones. Despite failing to win the title in his first season in charge - rather unluckily in fact - Celtic would go on to secure 3-in-a-row between 2011 and 2014, with Brown proving to be a crucial part of those wins, playing some of the best football of his career despite recurring injuries and increased competition in the midfield from players such as Joe Ledley, Beram Kayal, Ki-Seung-Yeung and Victor Wanyama. Throughout this period he would begin to really make his mark as a Celtic player both on and off the park. The rash, ill-discipline he showed as a younger player was beginning to slowly but surely wain away and he was maturing into a real leader and cult figure within the dressing room and with the support. One moment in particular stands out, from a February 2011 Scottish Cup tie against Rangers at Ibrox. This game would propel Brown into Celtic folklore for the ages, as he infamously performed the 'Broony' celebration in the face of world renowned idiot El-Hadji Diouf, after scoring a cracker from 20 yards. The image of him doing so is now firmly engrained in the minds of every Celts fan and it can surely stand as a symbol of the moment when Brown signalled his arrival as a Celtic hero.
Let's all do the Broony. 6th of February 2011, the day a legend was born
In addition to league success, Brown would also twice lift the Scottish Cup under the tutelage of Lennon, while also finally helping the club return to the Last 16 of the Champions League in 2013, as Celtic beat Barcelona - a game Brown unfortunately missed - on the way to being eliminated by Juventus. He would also go on to play in every single league game of the 2013-14 season, as Celtic lost only once on the road to securing their third successive title and, in turn, Lennon's last in charge of the club. Scott's relationship with Lennon was definitely a factor in the pair enjoying such success together. As previously mentioned, both were similar in some ways in terms of their style on the park, with the pair often clashing when facing each other during Hibs and Celtic matches when Lenny was still playing.
- Brown on Lennon in 2013
I feel, however, that this allowed for a mutual respect off it. By the time Lennon announced he was leaving Celtic in 2014, Brown had matured into a crucial player for the side, to the point where, if he was injured or missing from the squad, the difference in performance was often stark.
Indifferent under DeilaNeil Lennon was, and still is, a Celtic legend. Add to that the fact his time as manager was a successful one, and the task of replacing him with someone equal was a difficult one facing the Celtic board. With the demise of our neighbours across the city however, Lawwell and co viewed the beginning of the 2014/15 season as an opportunity to experiment slightly, and brought in the unfamiliar face of Norwegian, Ronny Deila. The new man was a complete unknown quantity for most Celtic fans,despite him leading the minnows Strømsgodset IF to a Norwegian league title out of the blue. Unsurprisingly though, there was much scepticism surrounding the appointment, but for Brown, the hard work had to continue.
He was retained as captain, with Deila often singling him out as being a crucial cog in the machine, regularly heaping praise upon his now vastly experienced midfielder. Deila's two seasons in charge were relatively successful, at least domestically. He continued the march towards 10-in-a-row, adding another two titles to the three that were secured under Lennon previously, while also winning a league cup and coming agonisingly close to a treble in 2015, with only a Josh Meeking hand ball preventing him from securing their place in the final. On the whole however, the Norwegian struggled severely with the pressure of managing a club the size of Celtic, with his European record in particular being the subject of much ridicule, failing to qualify for the Champions League in both seasons and performing poorly in the Europa, showing severe naivety and inability to lead.
In regards to Scott himself, he enjoyed a good first season under Deila, staying clear of injury for the most part and making 48 appearances, while regularly receiving praise both in the media and from his manager. Season 2015/16 was to prove much more difficult for the skipper however, with a niggling hip injury and hamstring problems curtailing much of his season. For the first time in a number of years, he was finding himself under increased scrutiny from the support, but in his defence, so was the whole squad. Looking back now, it is clear that he was playing through a substantial pain barrier and was putting his body on the line due to the pretty desperate situation Deila found himself in. The manager needed his leader, whether that was at 30% health or not.
Deila and Brown celebrate together during his 1st season
To those who knew him best, Brown was not the same player and, ultimately, his lack of form aided Deila's final downfall, at the hands of Rangers in the Scottish Cup Semi-Final. The Norwegians fate was sealed, and after an indifferent two seasons in charge, rife with inconsistency, he announced he would be leaving come the summer. On the face of it, both him and Brown enjoyed an ok relationship, however one can't help but feel that there was resentment and insecurity behind the scenes. Nevertheless, Brown would remain and Ronny would go, with the midfielder set to enter the 2016/17 season under a 5th different manager.
Resurgence under RodgersIn the summer of 2016, Celtic were at a severe crossroads. The Ronny Deila experiment had failed, and Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond could not afford a similar slip up. The club, players and fans alike were in the midst of a depressing slump, and, only one man could save them. Brendan Rodgers.
The appointment of the former Liverpool gaffer and lifelong Celtic fan gave the entire club a shot in the arm, and would, in turn, propel Brown back to a level of football he had arguably never reached before. The captain was being written off left, right and centre at the end of the 2015/16 season and, prior to the change in management, many felt his time as a regular starter was up. Rodgers felt otherwise, and upon his arrival, firmly proclaimed that Brown was set to become a crucial part of his plans and would be one of the first names on the team sheet. This surprised a few, mainly due to their worries over his form in the past year, however, they were all set to be proved catastrophically
Brown celebrates his dramatic goal in the 5-2 win over Be'er Sheva
Over the past season, Brown has enjoyed what is, in my opinion anyway, his best ever spell in a Celtic shirt. At 31 year's old, seemingly down and out, he has surged back to the top of his game, putting in consistently high level performances both at home and abroad. Under Rodgers, the Hoops have returned to the top table of European football once more, securing their Champions League place last August thanks to a crucial late Brown volley against Hapoel Be'er Sheva at Celtic Park, funnily enough, which proved vital over the course of the two legs. The team is also on course for a simply historic domestic season. With the league and league cup in the bag, only Aberdeen stand in the way of a treble, an achievement which would make every member of this squad a part of history. If defeat is avoided in the remaining two league games as well, then that Cup Final could potentially be a chance to finish the season unbeaten domestically. Staggering.
Brown's transformation though has been nothing short of remarkable. He has always had the ability, of course, however his play has reached untold levels this season, with his passing, control, and strength amongst other things all improving under Rodgers. His influence on this Celtic side is as great as ever, proven by his performances in all of the games against Rangers this season, where he has been a stand out performer each and every time.
Both manager and player seem to enjoy a fantastic relationship with one another, which has no doubt been crucial in helping to get Brown back to the level he is currently performing at. This relationship and man management style was something that was all too unapparent under Ronny Deila, and, something which was clearly evident under the management of both Lennon and Strachan, two spells where Brown also enjoyed better form. There is clearly a theme developing here. As previously mentioned, Rodgers was quick to praise Brown as soon as he stepped through the doors of Parkhead and this could only have helped to assure Scott of his place within the side, before even kicking a ball. One thing is for sure, each and every Celtic fan will be hoping that this season's form is only the start of what will hopefully be a late blossoming spell in the career of their captain.
Brown is back enjoying his football under a top class manager
What Does the Future Hold?So, how can you sum up Scott Brown? An energetic, tenacious and imperious leader, who's footballing ability on the park is all too often underestimated, he has served Celtic Football Club with pride and passion for the past decade, triumphing over adversity time and time again, and is showing no sign of letting up. There is still much work to be done in the eyes of the skipper, most notably perhaps the prospect of leading Celtic to 10-in-a-row for the very first time, which would in turn mean Brown himself would have lifted each of the 10 league titles, a prospect he himself surely dreams of.
The midfielder has recently stated that he hopes to play on well into his late 30's, maybe even until he is 40, and why not? He may not be a regular by that time, in fact, you'd imagine he won't be. However, if he can retain a good level of fitness and quality of play on the park, there is absolutely no reason why he cannot continue captaining this side for a number of seasons yet. I for one, hope he does, as despite him not often receiving the level of praise he might deserve, Celtic are a much lesser side without him and when the day comes for him to eventually be replaced, I do not envy the manager tasked with doing so. Here's to another 10 years, Broony.
"Where do I start, I would like to thank every player I have played with and manager I have worked under over the last 10 years. It has been an honour to play and captain this fantastic club and to continue to do so. Also, one big shout out to all the fans who have supported me over the 10 years thank you very much"