There are not many topics that leave Scott Brown with a straight face. Scott Brown the captain, Scott Brown the banter merchant, the dressing-room joker. A leader among men who lives and breathes for the camaraderie and buzz which comes from being immersed in the only thing he knows.
It’s therefore understandable that contemplating the unthinkable, the day it all eventually stops, is something which is no joking matter to him. Well, not entirely – when it comes to Brown there’s a joke or a cheeky quip isn’t far away.
“I think that hardest thing is not being in a dressing room with 20 lads and having the banter at training and losing a winning mentality,” he explains, a sombre look creeping across his face. “One day I could be training with the lads and the next day it’s the end of the season and you’re retired.
“For now I will enjoy every moment and play with a smile on my face because I know it might not last that long. I appreciate people more than ever. I appreciate training, coming to a place like Dubai, socialising with guys at night or by the pool. You take that in more than you did when you were a teenager.
“I’d love to play to 37 or 38 if I possibly could. I look at people like Gordon [Strachan] and Gary McAllister who played into their 40s. They did it back then, although it’s a different world now. We have 60 games a season and that’s a lot on your body. I got just six days holiday last year so it’s tough. If I could get three or four weeks off to recharge my batteries then I’ll feel fresh to start the season. But it sometimes becomes a drag and you feel sluggish – maybe picking up an injury or two – and you’re playing catch-up to all the younger lads.
“I left school and went straight into it and I don’t know anything else. It’s not that I’ve had a nine-to-five job and can go straight into it when I retire. Stuart [Armstrong] is studying law – but I don’t think that’s for me.”
At 32, there should still be plenty of miles left in the legs of the man who first burst into the Hibernian team with a lush head of hair and a spring in his step. To be fair, that spring is still there almost 15 years on. A large part of that is down to the way he now looks after himself. It’s hard to believe that the man transformed into a finely-tuned athlete by Brendan Rodgers is the same one who was once pictured slumped in a doorway munching on a kebab after a night out in Edinburgh, a year before Rodgers’ arrival.
“I feel good,” Brown said. “I think I’m looking after myself a lot better than I probably have done in the past. Our training helps because it’s high tempo and it’s been what I’ve been wanting to do for the last three or four years. It’s high-intensity training for an hour and a half every day to make sure we can last a game no matter what.
“We sometimes do double sessions, too, so there’s no time to sit about. We use GPS, sat-navs, heart-rate monitors – you name it, we use everything – and it shows you the numbers you hit. You can really see how hard you worked. We’re working flat-out and running through aches and pains to get through it, because you benefit from that in the long run.”
Brown as much as anyone. Earlier this week the Celtic captain was at the front of a fitness bleep test, one of the last five standing as younger colleagues fell in the heat.
“That’s my job anyway. I enjoy running so that doesn’t bother me,” he explained. “I also want to push myself as hard as I possibly can, as do all the lads as well. I just try and keep going. I know I’m getting older and one of these days I’m going to slowly fall down.”
Inevitably, the time to stop playing will come for Brown and he has already begun preparations for the dreaded day after taking his coaching badges and working within the Celtic youth set up.
Management seems the eventual destination, perhaps even one day at Celtic Park.
“It would be phenomenal but you need to start somewhere. I know Lenny came in when there were problems and he turned out to be phenomenal. But the club is in an incredible position now with an incredible manager and if he ever left, Celtic would be in a position
to go out and get another great manager who would love the job having done well elsewhere.
“I think for now I’d have to go away and earn the right to take
on the Celtic job. It’s not even that it’s simply being able to pick up the phone if I was a manager and be able to ask – what am I doing wrong?
I could pick up the phone to a lot of managers. I’ve been close with a lot of them and I could pick up the phone and get advice at any time.”
“You don’t ever think when you are 21 what you will do 15 years down the line. It’s only when you get to my age and you realise the next step is not far away and you go and get the badges so you are ready to take chances that come your way.”
In many ways Brown is predicted to follow a similar path to that of Neil Lennon, a combative former Celtic captain who continues to make waves in management, of course now with Hibs.
“I don’t think he saw himself as a manager,” he said. “I’m not sure if he’d done all his badges when he was chucked in at the deep end by Celtic and he seemed to enjoy it and thrive.
“He went to Bolton, came back stronger and took over at Hibs.
I’m lucky enough to win trophies with these guys, play in front of 60,000 people and that’s incredible as well. I take it in as I know it