26 Feb Alex McLeish plans Scotland future without ‘shining example’ Scott Brown
Scotland boss Alex McLeish admits his squad is losing a “shining example” following captain Scott Brown’s decision to retire from international action.
Brown broke the news to the new national team boss over the weekend as he confessed he was struggling to cope with the rigours of balancing his club commitments and leading out the Scots.
The Celtic skipper bows out having represented his country 55 times since making his debut against the United States in 2005.
McLeish handed the 32-year-old his first competitive start against Italy in Bari two years later but he will now be denied the chance to reunite with the midfield battler as he begins his second reign following Brown’s announcement that he is hanging up his international boots.
While disappointed, the Scotland boss – who was only re-appointed to the Hampden hotseat 10 days ago – fully understands his reasoning.
“I would like to thank Scott for his dedication to his country throughout his career,” said McLeish in a statement.
“I have known Scott for a long time – I gave him his first competitive Scotland cap – and I know how difficult this decision has been for him.
“Scott gave his all every time he represented his nation and his influence on the squad is immeasurable – he led by example both on and off the pitch and set the tone amongst the squad.
“He has been a shining example for the younger players in the squad and an influential figure in the dressing room.”
Meanwhile, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers described Brown’s international retirement as a “real, real sensible decision”.
Brown first called time on his Scotland career in August 2016 – only to reverse his decision two months later following an SOS appeal from former boss Gordon Strachan.
“I think he means it this time,” Rodgers said of Brown.
“It is obviously great news for Celtic and sad for the Scottish team.
“I think the last time he went back it was probably for Gordon, to help someone he was very close to.
“But for him and his career going forward, he wants to prolong his career at club level and, with the amount of games we have at club level, taking away international football, it is a real, real sensible decision.”
Rangers manager Graeme Murty has thanked Brown for his contribution to Scotland.
Murty – who represented Scotland four times himself, but never alongside Brown despite their stints in the international set-up overlapping – believes Brown’s decision leaves McLeish with a major hole to fill.
And he has challenged Rangers midfielders such as Ryan Jack, Greg Docherty and Ross McCrorie to prove they can step into the boots of their Parkhead foe.
Murty said: “He (Brown) has been a really, really good servant. He’s taken fantastic care of his body and I think you see that the impact he has on his team is very, very big.
“It’s now up to someone else to go and fill the hole that he will leave.
“It’s an opportunity – possibly for some of our players – to go and make that midfield role their own.
“So as a Scotland fan I would thank him for his work but there is an opportunity to move forward now with a group of players that are working with a new manager to try to stake a claim and play in his team.”