Scotland midfielder Scott Brown has retired from international football, the Scottish Football Association has announced.
The Celtic captain won his 50th and final cap against Denmark back in March but has now decided to call time on his Dark Blues run in a bid to prolong his Hoops career.
The 31-year-old has struggled with a number of injuries in recent seasons and has now told national team boss Gordon Strachan he no longer wishes to be selected ahead of next month’s opening World Cup qualifier in Malta.
The former Scotland captain admits it was the toughest decision of his career, but after a summer of introspection he felt the demands of international football could not be sustained along with a hectic club schedule.
Brown, who made his Scotland debut against the United States in 2005 and led his country out on 21 occasions, said: “Firstly, I would like to thank Gordon for giving me the honour of not only playing for my country but captaining Scotland in the last campaign.
“I also owe a debt to every Scotland manager before him who selected me – right back to Walter Smith handing me my senior debut, and the national youth coaches along the way.
“Gordon has been one of the most influential people in my career and I did not want to let him or my country down, but over the summer I had a lot of thinking to do. It’s no secret that I’ve suffered some injuries in my career and once you get over 30 you have to protect your body more, in any case.
“I’m not the type of player who can coast half-heartedly through a game – I give 100 per cent every time. Given the importance of this campaign for Scotland, and the challenges ahead at Celtic, I simply felt that I could not keep up both commitments without either my performances or recovery time suffering.
“Gordon understands this completely and I would hope the Scotland supporters understand my position, too.
“The personal disappointment of not reaching a major championship finals with my country was heightened this summer but we have a great squad of players and I am certain that we can really make a go of this campaign and qualify for Russia.
“I genuinely think we showed in the last campaign that we are good enough to compete with Germany, the world champions, and other nations who qualified ahead of us. I would like to thank the fans who travel across Europe to back us, my team-mates and the backroom staff for their support and look forward to seeing them soon.”
Strachan paid tribute to Brown’s contribution to his country, saying: “Scott is one of the most wholehearted players I’ve encountered and somebody who puts the team ahead of himself. He is not the type to play within himself, either, and I understand and respect the decision he has taken.
“I have huge admiration for a player as selfless as he has been: to sacrifice family time and recovery time to help his country.
“We will miss Scott as a player, no doubt about it, but football evolves and it provides an opportunity for others to step-up take that responsibility. We’ll miss him as a person, too, because his influence and popularity around the squad was integral to all that we did as a group.”
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said: “I think it is the right decision for him, obviously a very difficult decision for him.
“He is a passionate man about his country and with Gordon being his manager, who he is really close with, it was a really tough decision for him.
“But I think it is the right move. He is in the final chapter of his career, he has still got a number of years in him yet.
“He will probably want to give those best times to Celtic.
“When you have been a player playing 60-70 games a season for the last number of years, you need to look after your body and it has probably come at the right time for him.”