CELTIC legend Scott Brown has talked about the incredible bond with the club that was forced through personal anguish.
The onfield leader, who went on to lift 22 honours with the Parkhead side, suffered a family tragedy when his sister Fiona, at the age of 21 – following a year long fight against cancer – passed away.
Brown was bought for the Hoops in a Scottish record transfer £4.4million from Hibs in the summer of 2007. Fiona died fewer than 12 months later.
THE QUADRUPLE TREBLE…Scott Brown and Callum McGregor with the Scottish Cup after the penalty-kick shoot-out win over Hearts at Hampden in December 2020.
Her illness had been kept secret from the public, but boss Strachan and Peter Lawwell, the chief executive officer, were aware of their 22-year-old’s private suffering away from his endeavours on the pitch and away from the daily headlines that follow a club of Celtic’s magnitude.
Hoops icon Tommy Burns, one of the key components in Strachan’s managerical structure, had lost the same battle against the dreaded battle just one week perviously.
Brown, now 37 and manager of English League One side Fleetwood Town, recalled: “My form went up and down and that was understandable at the time.
“But, for me, the club was exceptional. Peter Lawwell was brilliant. And there’s not a lot of people that would get phone calls from the CEO just to ask how you are or how the family is doing.
“Tommy was going through the exact same. Tommy was exceptional. On the day he passed away, he still managed to send my sister flowers. They arrived on the day Tommy died and that shows you what kind of a man he was.
“You look back and it shows you I made the right decision. I came to a huge family club that wants the best for you, not just on the pitch but away from it, as well.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Callum McGregor acclaims his captain predecessor Scott Brown.
“After that 18 months the decision to come to Celtic was a no-brainer because of the way they looked after my family and the way they looked after myself, with days off when I needed them.
“The bond between me and Gordon probably became a lot stronger, as well. We still speak now and that shows you what kind of character he is.”
Brown also revealed how the overwhelming support influenced his decision to reject potential life-changing transfers to England’s top flight in January 2009 – after being instructed by Strachan’s successor Tony Mowbray to find a new club.
The former Scotland international captain, speaking to the Daily Record‘s new Off The Record Podcast, continued: “I had the chance to move to England with Tottenham and Newcastle, but, because of what the club had done for me in my time of need, I will always hold that in huge high regard.
“That’s what means more to me than anything. They looked after me during a hard time, so for me to jump ship was never in question.”
WE’RE BEHIND YOU…Scott Brown and the Celtic crest.
Brown, of course, is one of the most decorated players in Celtic history after 12 years of sterling serviced. He was an inspirational figure in the club’s second history-equalling nine successive titles and he captained the Hoops to the phenomenal quadruple treble, 12 consecutive domestic pieces of silverware, an achievement which will surely never be surpassed.
He recalled a special moment at Ibrox on February 2011 when he scored in a 2-2 Scottish Cup draw against Rangers at Ibrox.
Brown commented: “It was more of a shock to the Celtic fans that I scored with my left foot. They couldn’t believe it, either!
“I’ve managed to whip it in past Greegsy [Allan McGregor], into the far away corner. It’s not often my left foot works, but it did that day. Then that guy [El-Hadji Diouff] was just standing in front of me at the right time, so it couldn’t have worked any better!
“But I’m still devastated I was booked for it. I’ve not taken my top off. I just stood and put my arms up and I got a yellow. That’s bad refereeing that, by the way!”
THE CUP THAT CHEERS…Scott Brown celebrates his goal at Ibrox in front of El-Hadji Diouff.
Brown revealed to adopting a similar ‘wind-up’ tactic with Alfredo Morelos. He added: “To be fair, I won that one, as well. No, I like to try to pick and choose my battles quite well.
“Morelos is a good player and so was Diouf. But I would always try to get in their head and let them see that I’m a decent player.
“You flick a switch and either get them a red card or control the game. That was my mentality – to try to get in their head early doors.
“Did it work? Now and then, yeah. But to be fair they tried to give it back, as well. You don’t mind that. You want to see that kind of rivalry on the park and especially in a Rangers-Celtic game. You want to see somebody getting the better of others.
“I always wanted to get the better of him. I’d always try to wind him up, try to get on the ball and pull him in a little bit, pull him out of position. That’s what my game was.
“It was to try to slowly get into people but also at the same time it was to dictate play. To win the ball back and give it to the ten other better players on the park!”