Scott Brown's 400th Celtic game: Captain 'could go down as true club great'

Scott Brown (right) high-fives team-mate Patrick Roberts
Scott Brown (right) has been a Celtic mainstay since signing from Hibernian

Scott Brown has experienced the full gamut of emotions during his Celtic career: from the highs of league titles, cups and Champions League victories to red cards and European heartache.

The combative 31-year-old captain made his 400th appearance for the club against St Johnstone on Wednesday - a game which saw Celtic equal the Lisbon Lions' record of 26 domestic games unbeaten from the start of a season.

BBC Scotland takes a closer look at Brown's career.

'He halved Neil Lennon in two!'

Tam McManus is four years older than Brown and was already established in the first team at Hibernian when a teenage Brown started to make waves at Easter Road.

"I called him baby Andre the Giant," the former striker told BBC Scotland. "That name stuck at the time.

"He played right-back and he was a bundle of energy. He was up and down and firing into people. There was no respect given to anybody and it was the same when he made his first-team debut.

"It was a game against Aberdeen towards the end of the 2002-03 season [Hibs won 3-1]; he came on and he never looked back. He was in and about people.

From clockwise: Tam McManus, Scott Brown, Garry O'Connor, Derek Riordan and Stephen Dobbie
Tam McManus (top right) and Brown (far right) were part of Hibs' "golden generation"

"I can remember a game at Celtic Park and we'd beaten Celtic previously in the League Cup in the midweek with Kevin Thomson scoring in the last minute.

"We went to Celtic Park on the Saturday and Celtic were miffed, to say the least, that we'd put them out. We were 2-0 down at half-time and Derek Riordan had been sent off.

"We were eventually beat 6-0, but I can always remember, with about 10 minutes to go, Scott Brown was playing centre midfield that day.

"Neil Lennon got the ball and Celtic were giving it the 'ole's'. Scott went in and absolutely clattered Neil - halved him in two! Neil got up, patted him on the head and smiled.

"The game was finished (as a contest), but he was still out there trying - it tells you everything you need to know about him as a character."

Record transfer between Scottish clubs

Brown was brought up in the same Fife village - Hill of Beath - as another lauded Scotland midfielder, Jim Baxter.

He was not blessed with the same silky skills as the 1960s legend and was told by Rangers that he was too small to make the grade.

Undaunted, what the 5ft 9in midfielder lacked in height, he made up for in endeavour and went on to play 135 games for a Hibs side dubbed "the golden generation", which also launched the careers of Garry O'Connor, Steven Whittaker, Steven Fletcher, Derek Riordan and Kevin Thomson.

Scott Brown and then Celtic manager Gordon Strachan
Brown was signed by Gordon Strachan for Celtic in a £4.4m deal from Hibs in 2007

A few months after helping Hibs win the League Cup - their first trophy in 16 years - by beating Kilmarnock 5-1 in 2007, Brown joined Celtic for £4.4m - then a record fee between two Scottish clubs, despite reports he would join close friend Thomson at city rivals Rangers.

Brown, who had previously turned down a move to Reading, then in England's top flight, expressed delight at joining "one of the biggest names in football". "The opportunity to join a club of Celtic's stature was one I had to take," he said.

Then Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, now Scotland's head coach, also predicted big things for his latest acquisition.

Brown made his competitive debut in a goalless draw at home to Kilmarnock in August 2007, and was denied a last-minute winner by Killie keeper Alan Combe tipping away his looping shot.

Scott Brown tussles for possession with Kilmarnock's Jamie Hamill
Brown made his Celtic debut in a goalless draw with Kilmarnock

'Best attitude I've seen from a young player'

Brown is closing in on his sixth consecutive title as Celtic captain and a seventh league winners' medal overall. He has also helped the Glasgow outfit win the Scottish Cup twice and the League Cup three times.

"It's been a good nine and a half years so far and here's hoping for another nine and a half years," he told Celtic TV.

Can he continue to tot up the appearances despite injury niggles that led him to retire, albeit briefly, from Scotland duty last year? McManus thinks so.

"Four hundred Celtic appearances is fantastic," said Brown's former team-mate. "His attitude, his application, his hunger and his willingness to work was the best I've ever seen from a young player.

"He's 31-years-old: does he stay at Celtic to try to win 10-in-a-row? He could play until 35 or 36 and might go back to play the sweeper role, similar to Steven Gerrard.

"If he does, he'll go down as a true Celtic great. I'm delighted for him, he's a great lad.

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Oct 2016: Celtic's Brown scores winner against Dundee

"You see him in the tunnel before games and he's so serious. I always laugh when I see it; he's straight-faced and he looks ahead, doesn't talk to anyone. But he's the life and soul of the party at Celtic; he's a funny boy.

"Even last season, when he was being heavily criticised - he couldn't move, I spoke to him and he had tendonitis in his hamstring - but he had to play.

"Celtic were in dire straits. Even his presence - I think, if it wasn't for Scott and Leigh Griffiths last season, Aberdeen would have won the league."

Tussles and triumphs in Old Firm derby

Despite his stated desire to help Celtic make an impact in the Champions League, Brown has only managed to help the Glasgow side reach the last 16 of the competition once more - in 2012-13 - since achieving the feat in his debut season.

Similarly, his 51 Scotland caps - a number as captain - have come during a period during which the country has failed to reach a major finals.

Arguably, his most notable performances have come in Old Firm derbies - and famous duels with the likes of El Hadji Diouf and Joey Barton.

El Hadji Diouf and Scott Brown
Brown celebrated in the face of Rangers' El Hadji Diouf after scoring an equaliser in 2011

Brown marked his equaliser in a 2-2 draw in 2011 with an 'in your face' celebration before Rangers forward Diouf, who had dismissed him as a "nobody" pre-match.

Brown later admitted the moment helped cement his bond with Celtic fans, with whom he had previously enjoyed a somewhat "love-hate" relationship.

Earlier this season he won the midfield battle with Barton, who had said Brown "isn't in my league", as Celtic hammered their city rivals 5-1.

The man who has already racked up 12 yellow cards in 36 outings this season will further silence the doubters should he help the runaway Premiership leaders win the domestic treble - having already won the League Cup - which he says would be a "fantastic" way to end his 10th year at Celtic Park.

Testimonial and a new deal? 'More to come'

Brown has revealed he is in talks about a testimonial - he celebrates 10 years at the club this summer - and would be keen to extend his contract, which expires at the end of next season.

"If they want to offer me another four-year deal, I would be happy to accept," he said. "Here's hoping I have another good few years left here.

"I have still got the legs and the love for the game as well - and that's the main one. I feel as good as I have ever felt in a Celtic jersey."

Scott Brown with the League Cup
Brown lifted the League Cup in November, his 11th trophy success with Celtic

Manager Brendan Rodgers' words certainly suggest he would be keen to keep Brown in the dressing-room.

"It is a remarkable achievement by a top-class professional," the Northern Irishman said of his 400th appearance. "He sets an incredible example.

"My first impressions of him were very positive and he's a remarkable leader.

"To play that number of games at a club this size, your professionalism, your enthusiasm, your energy for the game and your commitment to being a top professional has to be there.

"The players take a great lead from him. He's at the very front from the first steps we take onto the training field, the warm-up, right from the very start.

"He's been at the top of his game this season. 400 is great for him, but there's quite a few more to come as well."

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