NEIL LENNON'S description of Scott Brown's lifestyle makes the Celtic captain sound more like a student than a professional footballer.
"He can't get up out of bed some mornings," the manager said. "He'll probably just make it down the stairs and lie on the couch for three or four hours before he can actually get up and start walking about."
Spending a morning in your dressing gown and slippers watching daytime television rather than being at work might sound faintly appealing, but add in the fact Brown's time at home is spent in excruciating pain as a result of a degenerative stomach/pelvis/hip problem and it doesn't seem quite as attractive.
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The midfielder has struggled on this season, picking and choosing his matches and trying to rest in between. It was always going to be a difficult approach to sustain over the longer term and it seemed after Celtic's Champions League defeat to Benfica on Tuesday night that Brown had reached the end of the road. He would need an operation to cure the problem and then take eight to 10 weeks to recuperate. Brown was given little chance of featuring in Celtic's crucial final Group G game at home to Spartak Moscow a week on Wednesday.
Then, yesterday, an apparent change of heart. Instead of going under the knife immediately, Brown wait until after the match and probably have the operation then. He could even play this afternoon against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
In many ways it makes sense. With Victor Wanyama suspended for the tie with the Russians – arguably the biggest game of Celtic's season – Brown's availability could be key to their chances of progressing. His problems are complicated, and the feeling lingers that Lennon won't be entirely happy until his captain has had the procedure, but the importance of the Spartak game would seem to have influenced policy on this occasion.
"The problem with Scott on Tuesday [against Benfica] wasn't his stomach or hip, it was just the fact that his body was cramping due to lack of training, so he might need some game time between now and Moscow," Lennon said.
"What I want from Scott – and I don't know if I'm going to get this – is almost 100%. We're going to try to gauge that over the next week to 10 days. We'll try to balance it so he goes into the Moscow game pain-free and as good as he was feeling before Benfica, Moscow and Barcelona. Slowly but surely he's been getting less out of games, in terms of game time and what he's bringing to the team. So if we can't do that then he might have to miss out.
"Long term, his condition's not getting any worse, but it's not getting any better because we haven't been able to rest him for an extended period of time. So it may be down to surgery and if that's the case it'll be eight to 10 weeks [recovery]. What I don't want is for him to be maybe 60-70% fit and I take a gamble with him. I'd rather just put somebody in who's fit and ready to play."
Brown's boyish enthusiasm to play in every game has sometimes been to his detriment. Lennon explained just how serious it is. "He doesn't moan about it but that's the problem sometimes, he'll keep it to himself when I'd rather he told me. Then he'll come to me and say I was in bits yesterday or I can't train today. That's because of pain, cramps. It's caused by inflammation of the stomach and pelvic area."
It is not only Brown who has been affected by Celtic's hectic fixture list. Joe Ledley has started to show early symptoms of the condition that has blighted Brown, while there are others "running on fumes" as the number of games stack up. The players will enjoy a brief winter break after their game with Motherwell on January 2 and Kris Commons admits the respite will be welcome.
"It is physically demanding for the top players with the Champions League and internationals, looking to win trophies," he said "I think the top boys will be looking to get a little break just to recharge the batteries. I mean, we're playing eight, nine months of the year and if you throw in a European campaign within that, plus a World Cup campaign, some boys don't get any time off at all. So, they will be itching to try and get their feet up, rest and regroup. Usually when you do rest you come back a lot fresher and you see more entertaining football."
After the excitement of Champions League football, Celtic return to auld claes and porridge this afternoon. "It's difficult to watch us on a Saturday afternoon when they've just watched us beat Barcelona or played well against Benfica," Commons admitted. "But as players we have a duty to inspire our fans to be noisy and give them something to shout about rather than the onus being on the fans to lift us."