It is often presumed in the footballing world that when a player reaches 30 his best years are all of a sudden behind him. Between the ages of 25 to 30, many players play there football at such a level they are labelled as being in the prime of their career. However, in the case of Celtic and Scotland midfielder Scott Brown his career has taken a totally different path.
Signed from Hibernian in the 2007/2008 season by Celtic, Brown was undoubtedly the golden boy of a Hibs side filled with an array of talent and potential.
Having broken into the side in 2002, as an extremely raw midfielder cum striker, he immediately caught the eye with his fiery demeanour and snarling approach to his play. However, Brown was also a player who garnered praise for his high stamina, brave tackling and endeavour on the ball, shaping him into a box to box midfielder which sadly, Scotland did not possess at that time.
Making 110 appearances for Hibs, winning the Scottish League Cup and reaching Europe during his time there, Brown was in high demand from teams north and south of the border before he finally joined Celtic in his £4.4m move – a record fee between two Scottish clubs.
You would be forgiven then for thinking that Brown would have reached his potential as a 26 year old that was in his 5th year at the club, but it has been a completely different story.
Signed by Gordon Strachan who commented on Brown, ‘He can play at a really high level, that’s for sure.’, he was entrusted with retaining the SPL title for Celtic, as well as providing the catalyst for Gordon Strachan to build a free-flowing attacking team who would dominate the domestic game.
However, somewhere along the line, both men decided that Brown would not stick to what he did best, which was attacking opposition defenders in the last third, using his exceptional power and direct play.
Instead he was reverted into a sitting midfielder with the prime aim of passing the ball from side to side, bringing key wide men such as Aiden McGeady and Shunsuke Nakamura into the creative and damaging positions.
To the detriment of Brown’s game, this style of play did not suit, and it became apparent fairly early on that he would have to adapt a lot to produce high quality performances as he had done at Hibs.
The Fife born midfielder has never been a player blessed with a precise, accurate and assured weight of pass and through his early spell with the Edinburgh side, he was renowned for his power, agility and ability to play a high pressure game with his snarling character.
This begs the question then, did Gordon Strachan sign the wrong player?
His midfield partner for much of his Hibs career was Kevin Thomson, who moved to city rivals Rangers 6 months before Browns move, and his style of play was very much suited to the patient passing Strachan wanted.
Strachan attempted to create a side which was solid from Goalkeeper through to his Central defenders and midfielders, allowing the full backs and wide men to provide the width, creativity and flamboyancy needed to balance the solidity provided by the core of the team.
However, Browns free roaming, raw style of play did not suit this, and from the point that Brown signed for Celtic, it was fairly apparent he would not fit into the side unless he adapted.
It is only now, in a Celtic side managed by Neil Lennon, Scott Brown is beginning to look like his old self.
Although not there yet, the now captain has put together assured performances in both a Celtic and Scotland shirt which lead us to believe that he is proving he belongs at the top level, something which has never been doubted in the mind of Brown himself.
It is testament to Browns character, that where a player with a weaker mentality may have caved due to the pressure the captain has been under, he has been able to continually make himself available despite never really hitting a sustained good run of form in a Celtic shirt.
In my own opinion, Neil Lennon see’s definite similarities between his own personality and that of Browns and due to this, he has remained the Celtic captain, and part of the team.
Also his move from central midfield to right midfield, has allowed him to play with more freedom of expression, something which was a cornerstone to his play when he first broke on the scene for Hibernian.
Brown may yet prove to be the exception to the case that players hit their peak later in their career, but he is steadily going about realising the potential that seemed lost, which begs the question ‘Will there be more to come?’.