The first big announcement of Gordon Strachan‘s tenure as Scotland boss wasn’t his debut squad selection last week. Apart from Chris Burke, Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller, there weren’t any major surprises in a squad which looks awfully similar to the one Craig Levein had to pick from in his last game as national boss against Wales in October last year.
By Jonny Boyle – @beanroll
No, the big call came in who would captain this Scotland team against Estonia at Pittodrie on Wednesday night. Although the game itself will be the friendliest of friendly matches as the Sinisargid visit Scotland for just the second time in their history, Gordon Strachan will be feeling some pressure as he looks to set the tone for the rest of his stay as national team manager.
Darren Fletcher looks set for another lengthy spell out of the game while he recovers from an operation on the ulcerative colitis condition which robbed him of the majority of 2012, so the appointment of Scott Brown as captain may be a sign of who Scotland can rely on to lead the team over the coming months.
The big question is – can Brown be the right man for the job and what exactly does he bring to the team?
Well, it’s a somewhat surprising choice given the fact Brown hasn’t always been the most consistent presence. While Celtic toiled in the first half of last season, Brown missed out through a series of injuries. That continued in 2012 when the 27-year-old struggled with a hip injury which continually recurred through the year and limited him to just three appearances for the national team.
That said, his presence has grown among a talented squad of players at Celtic. Neil Lennon has commented on the effect Brown has off the park and his Celtic players recognise the importance of Brown to the harmony of the team. Adam Matthews, the Welsh full-back at Parkhead, recently said: “Whenever it’s someone’s birthday, he puts a little prank on them. There’s always a lot of banter. He’s the soul of the team really. He’s the same behind the scenes as he is on the pitch.”
He may be the perfect captain off the park, but what about on it? Does he have the ability to inspire a team which has so often lacked inspiration? He’ll be able to rant and rave, but that might not be enough. Will his performances set the standard to the rest of his team-mates? Again, probably not. Strachan has experienced, quality players such as Allan McGregor, James Morrison and Steven Fletcher who have the most ability to set the standard.
Defending his decision to give Brown the captaincy, Strachan said: “The main thing is that Scott is good with people – if you actually know him.” Anyone who has watched Scotland over the past couple of years knows that the main thing is not being good with people, it’s being good with a football, but it seems that to get the best from his team, Strachan realises that the environment they work in has to be an enjoyable one.
With 29 caps to his name, Brown is the second-most recognised player in the national squad behind Kenny Miller; Strachan’s appointment points to the experience and character of Brown more than his playing ability. He’s had eight years in the national team – he should arguably have more caps had injury and the failure of Scotland not got in the way – and 11 years at the top-level of Scottish football. Strachan made him the most expensive player transferred between two Scottish clubs when he signed the midfielder for Celtic in 2007 for £4.4 million; if anyone knows what they’re getting with Brown then it’s his former manager.
At 27, Brown probably could and should have done more with his career, but now approaching his peak in a talented Celtic side and embarking on a new dawn with Scotland, maybe he is the right man to lead domestically and internationally.
Is Scott Brown the right man for the job? Give us your thoughts @talkingbaws or comment below. Watch out for Anton Horan’s blog tomorrow.