Cooney and Black

Photographs of Brown impersonating the groom on his stag night were no doubt beamed across the world. The past week has been nothing short of yet another PR disaster for Scottish football.

Scott Brown


THE point appears to have been missed concerning Scott Brown, the Celtic and Scotland captain, slumped wide-eyed and legless on an Edinburgh street.

Those who were quick to seek the moral high ground condemned Brown’s behaviour out of hand and pontificated long and loudly about the need for footballers to act as role models for the young and impressionable.

Others – the vast majority, it has to be said – dismissed the Scottish Sun newspaper’s front page photograph. They also dismissed the accompanying article explaining why Brown was lying on a pavement, devouring take-away food, as a complete over-reaction and absurdly out of proportion to the true worth and importance of the story, albeit it was tabloid gold.

But anyone who expects sportsmen, most especially footballers, to set an example at all times is living in la-la land.

Testosterone-charged super-fit young men don’t do goody-goody in the main. There is also that well-worn cliché that states: let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

I wonder how many of the morally outraged can look at themselves in a mirror and say with hand on heart that they have never transgressed?

We also live in an age when various social media outlets ensure that it is difficult for anyone in the public eye to break wind undetected, let alone have a few drinks, visit a few nightspots and then lie down in the street very clearly the worse for wear.

Long before the advent of camera phones, the internet, Facebook and Twitter, footballers behaved badly. The difference was that the majority of their indiscretions were overlooked by an adoring public and consequently went unreported. Sometimes this was through lack of proof as the rumour mill was invariably short on evidence in an age when the world at least seemed a less personality-obsessed place.

But back to Brown. He apparently did not break a club rule by letting his hair down and having a drink, even if, one suspects, his manager Ronny Deila had not intended the relaxation of his code of conduct with regard to his players having a night off four days before a cup final to be misinterpreted to quite such an extent.

Deila, you will recall, was initially keen to stress his belief that footballers should live like athletes 24/7 in regard to their social habits, diet and general fitness.

But the Norwegian is plainly not a fool. He would be naive in the extreme to expect an entire squad of fit young men to resist temptation all of the time.

However, whereas footballers are no less entitled to consume alcohol and chill out than the rest of us, there is a time and place to do so and the week of a cup final on the streets of the capital is neither the time nor place.

In the event, Brown’s actions did not appear to impair his abilities. He performed with his customary zest at Hampden Park, and Dundee United were duly beaten in the League Cup final to enable Celtic to complete the first part of a much sought-after treble.

But would Brown even have played back in the day of the late Jock Stein, or if he had been a Manchester United employee under Sir Alex Ferguson, another strict disciplinarian? I very much doubt it.

Celtic remained largely tight-lipped and it is not at all clear what repercussions – if any – Brown faced. But that is the prerogative of his employers.

So, all of that said, what exactly is the point that appears to have been missed?

It is this: As national team captain Brown accepted a duty and responsibility to portray his country in a favourable and wholly professional light.

Instead, photographs of him impersonating the groom on his stag night were no doubt beamed across the world. It once again portrayed the average Scottish footballer as a fun-loving drunk lacking the professionalism that should be associated with all of those who make a handsome living from their particular field of expertise and excellence.

Somewhat surprisingly and certainly disappointingly, Gordon Strachan, the Scotland coach, choose to avoid making meaningful comment or pass judgment on Browngate. I feel it would have been preferable had he done so.

But, given that he is noted for expressing outspoken views and is out of the same Stein/Fergie mould, I cannot believe for one moment that Strachan was not appalled by the actions of his captain and has not condemned Brown – in private, at least.

So, too, should all Scotland football fans. While it would be fanciful to describe any captain of our team as a national treasure, the incumbent nonetheless has a duty to carry out his responsibilities in a manner befitting a true leader, role model and ambassador for his country.

If Scott Brown is either unable or unwilling to comply with the demands that go with the honour, no-one should think any the less of him if he hands the armband over to someone else better suited to fulfilling the often extremely difficult demands of leadership.

For if, as Roy MacGregor, the Ross County chairman and wise sage, stated, football is 90 per cent public relations and 10 per cent rules, the past week has been nothing short of yet another PR disaster for Scottish football.


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