I wrote earlier about Scott Brown, and his management hopes, which I believe will one day bring him home to Celtic Park. Just not right away. It’s always good reading about this guy’s reminiscences as a Celtic player, but today was especially interesting as he discussing the impression Ange made on him. In one particular anecdote, both men show their quality.
When Brown returned to Celtic with Aberdeen, the boss wanted him to go around the pitch at the end of the game and take the applause of the fans. That’s who Ange is. He believed that Brown’s services to this club should be honoured by a standing ovation and I have no doubt that Celtic Park would have risen, as one, to give it to him.
Brown is one of the great Celtic players I’ve watched, and the greatest captain. I wasn’t sold on him at first, even when he won player of the year in his first campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I could see he was a fine footballer and a superb athlete, but there were things I wasn’t sure of and the idea that he might become a leader … it seemed mad.
The day that swung me was the day at Ibrox when we were down to ten men in the Scottish Cup and he scored his howitzer and “did the Broony” in front of that despicable individual El Hadji Diouff.
It wasn’t just the goal or that celebration; we were right up against it that day after the red card, and he dragged the whole team up in a display of leadership, and football quality, that I’ve barely seen the equal of from a Celtic player. That was a masterclass in how to inspire and motivate the people around you when their backs are to the wall.
From that moment on I wouldn’t hear a bad word about him. I watched as he grew into a captain with the stature to stand alongside the very best ever to wear the armband. And in many ways he surpassed nearly all of them.
Brown more than merited a longer goodbye, and we never really got to give him one. He played his last game for our club in front of empty stands; that was not how the man should have ended his love-affair with our supporters. So Ange offering him that opportunity wasn’t just a classy gesture from the manager, but something we all would have welcomed.
Yet Brown turned down the opportunity. Because he didn’t want to take his bow in front of our fans in the shirt of another team. I think, although he leaves the thought unspoken, that he would have considered it disrespectful to the Aberdeen fans at the same time.
That’s a measure of his quality as a man, not just as a footballer, not just as a leader on the pitch, but as a man. He respects convention and tradition and the supporters, wherever he is, and that’s a big deal in a game where so many pay lip service to those ideas.
Understand that no-one would have given Brown stick for doing it, nobody would have given him a hard time. No-one would have felt disrespected or any of that … he just didn’t think it was appropriate and chose not to.
Well, the day will come for Brown and he will get that Celtic Park ovation. He has more than earned it. He is one of the worthiest players in our history of a proper, Parkhead farewell.