Sunday 15 September 2019

Brown: I have had to put up with abuse for past 12 years

Celtic captain says social media making matters worse

Celtic's Scott Brown
Celtic's Scott Brown

Roddy Forsyth

The vile personal abuse directed at Scott Brown as he boarded the Celtic team bus after last month's Old Firm derby at Ibrox has had heartening consequences, but the Hoops captain has revealed that such taunts have been a persistent feature of his life for almost 12 years.

It was in 2008 that Brown's sister, Fiona, died at the age of 21 from skin cancer, a subject thought fit by a 15-year-old Rangers supporter to be used as a jibe against the player as he left the stadium.

In footage of the incident, the fan can be heard saying: "How's your sister?" Brown stops, taken aback, and stares down the miscreant as other Rangers supporters object.

Rangers subsequently apologised to Brown, and the teenager - banned for life by the club - was charged by police.

Brown yesterday described an email from Rangers to him as "lovely" and said: "Fans from both sides were phenomenal, to be honest."

However, he depicted the latest occurrence as merely an extension of a malign pattern of familiar behaviour, when he said: "It's not just one incident, it's happened over the last 12 years of my career. You can shout and swear at me as much as you want on the park, but don't go into detail off the park like that."

Asked if he believed that abuse had become an increasingly frequent and disturbing phenomenon and why that might be so, Brown was emphatic.

"That's easy - social media. Anyone can write what they want," he said. "Someone sitting in the house, that has probably never played sport, thinks they will drink a bottle of vodka and then go and write something online.

"It's easy enough done. It's hard because people can do it on Twitter and send it to you directly. It can be done on Instagram. It can be done on the street and no-one else can stop that.

"It's one person with a daft 30 seconds which they may probably regret afterwards, but they said it and that's the problem. You get it all the time walking down streets and on Twitter. You just walk away from them because there are a lot of people who could get tempted into doing something silly.

Strong

"It's part and parcel. As I said, it's about being mentally strong. People can shout things and say things. I just focus on what I need to do. Here's hoping that's the end of it."

When it was suggested that young footballers might benefit from education about social media, Brown said: "Yeah, but that was me walking to a bus. Do you want people to stay away from buses?"

On a more welcome topic, Brown revealed that retirement from international football had left him with regrets but also a welcome release from the effects of a relentless playing schedule.

"I was delighted to get the break," he said. "I played golf, chilled out and spent some time with the kids as well. I was away with Steven Whittaker and it was good to switch off.

"It wasn't about who we are playing at the weekend - it was about how bad our golf is and how bad the Scottish weather is. It's good for me personally to get some time, especially as I am a little bit older now.

"I'd love to be able to keep playing for Scotland but you just know when the time is right for your body. I do notice a huge difference. I'm coming off 10 days without a game right now.

"I was still training but it's not as hard as what the guys had to do against Russia and Belgium, which was physically and mentally draining. You don't get as much of the ball as you do at Celtic and it's hard playing in games like that.

"I feel my body is as good as it can be now, because I am getting the extra rest. There are more international breaks in October and November and then we have time off in January.

"I am looking month to month these days. I can push myself as I know I will get that recovery."

Rangers, meanwhile, have also been concerned about the demands of Scotland duty, after Ryan Jack suffered a swollen knee and missed the Euro 2020 qualifying defeats against Russia and Belgium.

"He was asked to do a double session two days after an Old Firm game, which made his knee flare up," said Rangers boss Steven Gerrard.

He added: "It is a shame as he has missed the last five or six training sessions. I think it's just careless.

"Ryan's got a knee issue that he manages. The SFA are aware of that, their fitness coach is aware of that.

"I think everyone in Scotland watched the Old Firm and saw Ryan play 90 minutes - and then 48 hours afterwards, he did a double session."

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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