Brendan was speaking today in advance of tomorrow’s fixture against Dundee, and as per usual he hit the mark with his comments when it came to Scott Brown.
For the whole of this season, as our captain has strolled across the playing fields of Scotland, commanding every game he’s played in, the media has been engaged in attacking Scott Brown. Those attacks have taken various forms, but they were all leading to one place; to a place where a player thought he could viciously assault Brown and walk away from it.
Thankfully he saw red. But be under no illusions about him being the last person to have a go at our captain like that. He won’t be. That much is clear. Brown has a target on his back, and that’s why Brendan no longer fears telling it like it is.
Yes, Scott Brown is a victim of envy in Scottish football, and it’s not the sort “oh look how much money I’ve got.” Envy takes many forms. For Sevco fans, they look at him and see everything that’s missing from their own team; heart, guts, leadership, drive. For certain managers at other clubs they know they have no-one to match him, so use his influence as an excuse; “Scott Brown gets away with everything.” For certain players there’s the problem of simply being outclassed and being unable to deal with it. Envy. It’s a bitch.
But envy isn’t all of it. There’s good old fashioned anti-Celtic hatred in there too, the kind we all recognise from bygone days. Neil Lennon had to put up with it. How many times were his credentials as captain called into question? The toxic hatred of Lennon still fills the air in many grounds in Scotland today as a result of sustained media pressure against him, and it has let up only very slightly if it’s lessened for him at all.
The real problem these people have is that a club captain is the front face of a team, and in Brown we have one who personifies the spirit of Celtic today; confident, hungry for success, unafraid, outspoken, unambiguous and unapologetic about being who we are. This grates people. Because a Celtic captain isn’t meant to be any of those things in their eyes. A Celtic captain is to be humble, like Paul McStay, or unassuming like Jackie McNamara, or laid-back like Tom Boyd. I loved those three and all the other captains I’ve seen.
But it grates when a Celtic captain is also a warrior, someone who takes the fight to the opposition, someone who wears the jersey with chest bursting pride and revels in what it means to be a leader of this team at this moment in time. A Celtic captain is not supposed to be self-confident because in the eyes of these people this club isn’t meant to be either.
A Celtic captain should “know his place.” Second, after an Ibrox captain, in the Scotland team as it often was. That’s what they mean they say Brown “lets himself down” and that his conduct is “unbecoming.” Unbecoming of their idea of what a Celtic captain should be … not Scott Brown’s idea. He’s a very modern Celtic captain.
Envy then, yes, but of Celtic as much as Brown, of our place in the world now and of his very specific and historic role in this moment. I understand why they hate the guy, why they hated Lennon, and I always have. When he wears that strip, his chest puffed out, he makes them feel small. And that’s exactly what they are, the Billy Dodds of this world, the Craig Levein’s.
“A player like Scott is to be emulated,” said Brendan today. He’s right of course. But those who can never hope to match him and who think a Celtic captain should be of a humbler, quieter, gentler nature, all the better to be dominated, are left only with envy and the same old anti-Celtic spite. It must be suffocating at times to be so filled with those negative emotions.
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