Scott Brown’s Celtic legacy is an irreplaceable void that may never be filled
As I walked up the steps of the Jock Stein stand and took my seat behind the goal at Parkhead, the flag that declared Celtic the Premiership champions was raised to a rapturous applause from the fans. Rangers had gone into administration, and were sent to Division Three, and there was a feel of the start of a new era coming in. Never could we have predicted the sheer dominance that was to come, but just like on that day against Aberdeen in 2013, there was one iconic figure leading the pack and barking the orders to the ten others on the park that afternoon. Little did we know just how great his already iconic influence would become.
Signing in 2007, Gordon Strachan brought the midfielder to Celtic from Hibernian for a Scottish record of £4.4M after a five year stint at Easter Road. It was a transfer record between two Scottish clubs, and he was quick to make his presence known with 48 appearances in his maiden title-winning season. Since then, his talents and leadership blossomed in the team, and the fans grew to adore their new captain, who received the armband in 2010 from Tony Mowbray. There’s big decisions, and then there’s choosing a player to lead the efforts in ending Rangers successful hat-trick of titles in the end of the 2000’s. But as time would tell, Brown was just the man to step up to Celtic’s city rivals. The famous image of Brown stood with his arms wide open looking stone cold into the eyes of El Hadji Diouf became synonymous with Brown, and his goal was nothing short of spectacular. The pair had been giving it a famous back and forth, but this moment immediately solidified Brown as a Celtic legend. Attempts to sway him towards England failed, as a £6M bid from Newcastle couldn’t shift the skipper, and that sign of loyalty only made the admiration for Brown grow. Neil Lennon was desperate to plan around Brown for the foreseeable, and sure enough it worked as Brown won his first trophy with a 3-0 win over Motherwell in the 2011 Scottish Cup. Now it was time for Brown to show his worth, and recapture the Premiership, but an unexpected helping hand from the league did more than its part.
The points deduction left Celtic well clear of Rangers, and a 3-0 derby win in April 2012 became what was the last final derby between the two for a number of years. Rangers had been relegated, they were gone, and Brown lifted the title that May, his first as captain and a Celtic player. They knew the ramifications of Rangers being banished to Division Three, the team had to kick on and take Scotland’s Premiership by the throat and assert their dominance. The first day without Rangers in the league, was the day I watched him command the side past Aberdeen. Kris Commons scored the winner in a stubborn 1-0 victory, but the minute I laid eyes on Brown in person I realised just how dominant a presence he was on that pitch. He was the leader the club needed, and the man who had the ability to take Celtic forward.
Fast forward several years, and despite Lennon moving on, the trophies kept on coming, and now Brown had secured five consecutive titles under Lennon and Ronny Deila. Cups would be scattered across this run, but Scotland had well and truly swung Celtic’s way, and the man running the show was still the ever present Brown. Step up another new manager, and this time Brendan Rodgers is managing the side after a sour end to his tenure at Liverpool. He needed to rejuvenate his managerial career, and with Brown as the leader, the pair did something unthinkable. An entirely invincible season in which they won 34 league games, drew four, won both cup competitions and kicking Rangers out of both in the process, and even running Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to two draws in the Champions League. They were in no position to do this many said, they were going to struggle to do the season unbeaten they said. Sure enough, Brown led the charge, and Celtic emphatically made history, with the clubs 100th trophy, a fourth treble, and the new tagline of the invincibles, and all while Brown wore the armband.
A second treble followed the season after, and then after winning his seventh trophy, Rodgers was lured back to England with the Leicester City job, but step up a returning Lennon, who not only completed that seasons treble, but went on to secure a fourth consecutive treble the following season. The one constant, an ever demanding Brown, who always with every play wanted more from his players, wanting courage, bravery, and determination, and sure enough the squad repaid him all these qualities and then some. Celtic made footballing history, and quite frankly the success Brown has had is absurd. Ten titles at Celtic, nine of them consecutively titles as captain, six Scottish Cups, six League Cups, Scotland captaincy, and all the glory that comes with it. But all of this was done with his steely determination to win every battle.
The impact Brown has had on Celtic since joining in 2007 has made the footballing world sit up and take notice. From silencing a loud mouthed Joey Barton, to rocking uo around some of the most baltic corners of Europe for Champions League in a T-shirt, his personality has truly been one of a kind. His dominance with Celtic has been next to none and has moved him into comparisons with the elites, with European Cup winning captain Billy McNeil’s family praising him before his departure for a coaching role with Aberdeen. And as I sit and reflect on my time as a Celtic supporter, Brown’s reign as captain has brought me some of the best years of my life. To see him go out without fans to say goodbye is going to be tough on Saturday, but ending his time at Easter Road feels quite fitting. He was a once in a generation leader, and whoever gets the armband next is filling an impossible void. Enjoy every last second of his final game, because there might never be another captain in Scotland like him again.
Captain. Leader. Legend.