IF Scott Brown is tempted to renew his Scotland vows then the time to speak is now. Or forever hold his peace. To be fair, in the light of yesterday afternoon’s draw it’s a question that seems increasingly fanciful.

Still, if Brown fancies pulling on the dark blue of his country once again then why wait for the honeymoon? There was much hand-wringing when Brown left the Scotland door ajar on Thursday evening when the subject of Euro 2020 was raised. For many, the Celtic midfielder’s decision to retire – twice – in order to prolong his domestic career would suggest a black-and-white take on things.

It will be interesting to hear what Steve Clarke’s take is.


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Ultimately, though, Scotland are not blessed with an abundance of experienced players who have consistently plied their trade and proven themselves at the very top level. Getting them into squads will always enhance rather than detract.

But if Brown is genuinely tempted by the thought of representing Scotland at their first major tournament since 1998 then it is not necessarily in the summer when Clarke could be doing with him but next March.

Israel looks winnable. The final – against Norway or, more probably, Serbia – looks substantially more daunting.

Norway have not lost a home game in the last three years while Serbia, ranked 33rd, were in attendance at the last World Cup. And where Scotland could really do with all hands to the pump will come in that game, assuming they make it past Israel. Which in itself is no given.

So if there is any temptation on Brown’s part for one last swansong then it makes sense to offer his services to Clarke for two games that have put Scotland within touching distance of an invite to the summer party.

Leadership remains Brown’s thing but there is more to his game than just a hard stare and bit of cajoling. The dirty work of stopping passages of play and breaking up game-plans often goes unnoticed.

And, in fairness, the timing of those games would be far more suited to the player. In the twilight years of his career, the real grunt work for players takes place in the opening six months of the campaign.

Indeed, clubs will play almost a full fifth of their league fixtures in December alone. By the time the January break comes around, Brown will potentially have played 37 games already this term.


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The Champions League qualifiers and Europa League games account for much of that – games that take so much out physically and mentally – and while Celtic are guaranteed at least another two games in the Europa League knockout phase in February, it is not the same three games a week schedule to incorporate them.

From that perspective, a shortterm return ought to be agreeable to all. And Brown would be in good company when it comes to doing a u-turn. Henrik Larsson did it for Sweden – and no, Brown will not have the same midas touch – but the striker also twice came out of retirement to answer the call of his country. First at Euro 2004 and then again four years later.

Anyone asked to make way to accommodate a returning player will have genuine cause for grievance. It’s a legitimate grumble, especially given some of the unglamorous ports that Scotland have had to stop off in these last 18 months or how difficult some of the games have been to play in.

The bigger picture, though, is that a country starved of any crumbs from the top tables has to have their best players in about it. And the streetwise element to Brown’s game is something that could add something to Clarke’s hand as he strives to plot a course that could take Scotland into draw for the European Championships, however unlikely that may currently look.

Clarke has worked hard on trying to foster a spirit and a camaraderie within the national team, no easy feat given the dispiriting results at times. There has been the slightest glimmer of light with three wins out of three from their last run of games but an analysis of the product would suggest Scotland still need all the help they can get.

If Brown is willing to chip in to get Scotland back to a level that has been elusive for decades then there should be no pause for thought. Scotland are not in the position of being able to turn down offers of help.


THE contrasting styles of Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho will not be seen just on the pitch.


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Where Mourinho’s arrogance has rubbed people up the wrong way throughout his career, Pochettino has had the neutrals rooting for him due to his warmth and affability. His dance moves as Spurs made it into the Champions League final and his tears as they lost it lent a one-of-us impression that easily endeared him to an audience.

Leaving Spurs this week, the Argentine used his tactical board to pen a brief goodbye note. Hours later, Mourinho’s attempts at presenting a more humble version of himself lasted until he was asked about Spurs’ disappointment at losing the Champions League final: “I don’t know because I never lost a Champions League final.”

What this week underlined is the hideous nature of football. Spurs owe Pochettino a debt for elevating them to a position few could have imagined. His reward? The sack for a sticky five-month patch. Tough at the top right enough.