Scott Brown has made a career out of being Scottish football’s premier wind-up merchant so his antics on Sunday should have been of no surprise.
The Celtic captain wasn’t born with the technical gifts of a Callum McGregor or Ryan Kent but he has made the most of his raw attributes with a fiercely competitive attitude and abundant mental strength.
Sometimes that takes him to the edge and over it, but he’s the kind of guy you’d generally want standing next to you in the heat of the battle.
It’s hard to take too much issue with what he did during the game. Brown clearly got under the skin of his Rangers opponents which is exactly what he set about to do. Is it nice to see? No, probably not, but such skulduggery is one of the hurdles any player must face to win a game.
Simply put, Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent are 22-year-old lads without the deep level of experience Brown carries through this fixture and it showed.
In the incident with the Colombian, Brown was doing what experienced pro’s have been doing since this fixture began, testing the mettle of younger guys in the white hot atmosphere, knowing that the manic energy of the fixture can envelop the mind.
If there was any surprise given Morelos’ repeated capacity to self-destruct in important fixtures, it was only that it appeared to take such little provocation, a minor clip of the feet.
With Kent, Brown was simply refusing to hand the ball over, killing time and enraging a man who was desperate to continue waging his one man war on Celtic’s defence. His hybrid push/punch was the act of someone exasperated by Brown’s attempt to stifle his relentless charge.
What the Celtic captain was doing in the game qualifies as little more than gamesmanship. It’s a tactic that’s been employed by Rangers players of the past in the fixture, essentially exploiting mental weakness in their opponents. John Brown, Richard Gough and the rest will tell you it’s part of the game.
Where Brown did step over the line was his conduct at the end of the game.
It was only November when a Police Scotland memo reacting to the events of the previous Celtic Park clash between the two sides stated: “I am firmly of the view that there is a clear link between the actions of the Celtic players (which immediately inflamed an already delicate situation) and subsequent response of the Rangers fans.”
Police Scotland are entitled to expect that, of all people, the Celtic captain would have heeded the serious nature of their concerns and not celebrated in the area that holds Rangers fans.
In a perfect world, football fans would of course take such celebrations with a stiff upper lip but this is a powder keg tie renowned for high emotion. Fans surge forward in fury and this puts safety at risk. Surely even Celtic fans would concede that celebrations would be better made in any other part of the ground?
Scott Brown must have been aware that there is supposed to be a crackdown on players doing a lap of honour at the tie and that parading his wide-armed celebration was only likely to further inflame the significant tensions built up during the match.
While Brown showed all his experience in his display on the field, he didn’t show any of that nous from the minute the final whistle ended.
It was unbecoming of a Celtic captain, a role held with distinction by men like Billy McNeill who would look to decrease the tensions of the fixture rather than exacerbate them.
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