Gordon Strachan paid tribute to Scott Brown's popularity after revealing that the Celtic midfielder will captain Scotland in tonight's friendly against Estonia.

Absent Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher will return to the role if and when he recovers from his serious bowel condition. But Strachan pulled Brown aside at the team hotel yesterday to say that he would lead out his country for the first time at Pittodrie. The most obvious replacement for Fletcher, Gary Caldwell, withdrew from the squad yesterday because of a hip problem.

"Scott is somebody who is captaining his club and at a high level in the Champions League," said Strachan. "So he has had [the experience of] captaincy. It is a stressful job, but also a good job.

"Scott is good with people, if you actually know him. I don't think anybody's met him who fell out with him. I looked round this morning: Scott wasn't training but he was talking to everyone at the Aberdeen Sports Village and they loved his company. Everybody who meets him thinks he's fantastic.

"It's just if you meet him on the pitch that he becomes a different person. That's what we are when we enter the pitch. I don't think he will ever mature. Seriously.

"If Darren Fletcher comes back he will be captain again. We just need to keep our fingers crossed for him. There would be nothing better than August coming and Darren Fletcher returning as captain."

Celtic winger James Forrest was allowed to return to his club yesterday because Strachan felt the heavy Pittodrie surface would not suit his game. Leeds United's Ross McCormack and Grant Hanley of Blackburn Rovers also pulled out due to illness and injury, but Strachan remained pleased with his resources. He had decided on eight of his starting XI yesterday and will chose the three others after an early look at the Pittodrie pitch today.

By the close of office hours yesterday around 14,000 tickets had been sold for his first game in charge.