I recall a moment in an early 2000’s contest with Hibernian at Celtic Park – it was to be a marker laid down and a statement of both intent and of character.
Bobo Balde was in his heyday and was intimidating opposition players far and wide – on these, or, on foreign shores, attacker, midfielder or defender alike, they all shied away from the competing with big Bobo’s combative side. Well nearly all.
A young, motivated, perhaps overly enthusiastic and certainly uber confident young fella was making a name for himself in the Hibernian midfield.
This young whipper-snapper was already a pain in the neck should you be a fan or player of the opposition – he had an engine that could endure lung-bursting run after lung-bursting run. He chased down all everyone and everything, to him nothing was ever a lost cause.
The young lad was no stranger to the physical side of football. He was more than prepared to put stamp his authority on any game and into any challenge, often too enthusiastically so. He seemed to thrive upon the physical side of the professional game in fact.
Little more than a kid, his fledgeling career already hinting at bigger things which were to follow, make no mistake he could play a bit as well.
Anyhow, the young gun charged down a seemingly hopeless cause. He had no right to think he could win the ball and no right-minded player would even have wanted to enter into the challenge it’d take to make the seemingly impossible, possible.
Faced with an onrushing Bobo Balde, a young Scott Brown chose not to flinch, not to preserve his dignity, or, to avoid risking the functionality of his young legs. Instead, he simply embraced the moment and went into full on ‘heel mode’.
Brown hit Bobo as hard as he possibly could. He hit him so hard that the brutish, hulking monster that was Bobo Balde felt genuine pain as he lay flattened on the turf just 10 or so yards infield of the south stand deep.
I don’t think Bobo had even seen it coming. He certainly hadn’t been expected a young, thin and spiky haired Hibernian midfielder to be the one both willing and capable of entering into a battle of physicality.
The Celtic Park crowd were equally as shocked as they were disgusted – how dare this cheeky youngster have the temerity to engage this peerless physical specimen and to crock him whilst doing so.
It was very much Brown being Brown – true to his nature as a developing player he was so concentrated on winning the ball that everything else had gone ignored.
The crowd roared their disapproval but this young lad cared not a jot – for him winning was everything and he cared not who he upset to do so.
Anyhow, on closer review of the footage it seemed whilst he had clattered through the tree trunk sized legs of Balde, young Scott had actually got his foot to the ball – at least enough to avoid taking a walk for it. There certainly wasn’t any malice in the tackle and it was more a case of him being overly enthused yet again.
Hard but fair seems a reasonable assessment of Celtic’s captain.
Scott Brown is a physical player; certainly, he is guilty of giving away more than a few fouls and in doing so, collecting a few disciplinary points.
Is he however so rash and hot-headed that he endangers opponents? Certainly not!
Scott Brown is a winner and a nuisance, a genuine thorn in the side of the opposition. He cares not a jot for reputation, strength or standing, he simply rolls his sleeves up and does what comes naturally to him – he competes his a*** off!
Now, with all that he is, Scott has always been to a degree targeted by teams. Teams either try to wind him up, or, to likewise compete in a physical sense – many have tried, few have successfully mastered him in either department however.
That treatment is simply a compliment to the player he is.
Teams realise that to win over a team which includes him, you have to work your socks off to suppress his influence, strip him of possession and limit his play-building prowess.
It is a backhanded compliment when they whine and moan about him, or, they chase him in packs all the whilst clipping at his heels. I suspect Scott himself is acutely aware of this and that he revels in his notoriety.
It certainly seems that certain players, or, certain clubs have abandoned their belief that Scott can be overcome by guile and gut-busting alone. Now, they seem to believe that he is fair game for all manner of brutal treatment.
He is, in my opinion, being singled out for a horrendous level of fouling and no more is it confined to instances of attempting to win the ball – now it seems tackling is not a necessary cloak for the rough stuff. The tackle of Andrew Davies of Ross County, the stamp by Naismith and the out and out recklessness of Graeme Shinnie just a few examples.
Yet, Scott Brown rarely reacts to this hostile treatment.
I’d go so far as to suggest that this matured Scott Brown has shown a degree of restraint at times which is frequently and shamefully overlooked. He is a much matured and dare I say ‘reformed’ character in that respect.
Perhaps the time has come for a call for Scott to be protected from the players who ply their trade in the Scottish game.
When tackling itself becomes superfluous and obsolete, the game is well and truly up – we move into an area of criminal culpability and we see blatant assaults being committed.
Broony himself joked yesterday that maybe it’s time he starts getting protected more by referee’s – while he said it in a light hearted way, he’s absolutely correct.
You will never see the Celtic captain moaning about this treatment but as the opposition looked to up the anti – Broony does run the risk of serious injury that could curtail his career.