IT is something of an understatement to say that Scott Brown needed to build a few bridges at Pittodrie when he signed a pre-contract agreement with Aberdeen back in March.

The news the Celtic captain – an individual who had become, as the result of a series of high-profile flashpoints and controversies during his 14 years at Parkhead, a hate figure for the Red Army - would be joining them in the summer was greeted with horror by a disbelieving fanbase.

Chairman Dave Cormack would have provoked less outrage if he had announced that Stephen Glass’s team would be playing in light blue jerseys in the 2021/22 campaign.

The move was described by one indignant supporter as “by far the worst decision in Aberdeen’s history” and by another as “an absolute disgrace”.

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Some did welcome his capture. A number acknowledged the vastly-experienced player would help a young side lacking in that invaluable quality. But they were very much in the minority.

Brown has always positively revelled in the opprobrium that rains down on him from the stands on match day. So the adverse reaction to his arrival in the north-east was never likely to bother him unduly. Still, the way he has won around fans in the past six months has been remarkable. 

He has gone from being Public Enemy No.1 in the Granite City to the new Willie Miller.

The former Scotland captain and midfielder has, for all his strengths, never been a world-class performer. He is certainly a hard-working footballer, an inspirational leader and a combative presence on the park as well as, contrary to what his many critics will tell you, a good guy off it.  

But he has never possessed the class on the ball or football intelligence of Jim Bett, Paul Lambert, Graeme Souness, Paul McStay, Steven Davis or even Callum McGregor. 

When it comes, though, to winding up opponents “Broony” is in a league of his own in the global game.

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He was up to all is old tricks once again in the cinch Premiership match against Rangers at Pittodrie last night.

He got Ryan Kent –who he had memorably goaded into lashing out at him in the centre circle, an offence which the winger later received a two game ban for, in an Old Firm derby at Celtic Park back in 2019 – sent off with an excessive reaction to a nothing challenge.

As the Englishman headed for the tunnel he laughed in his rival's face and applauded – much to the delight of the home supporters. 

He was not finished there either. He immediately started mouthing off to James Tavernier as they jostled for position. The visiting skipper eventually shoved him away in disgust. Dons diehards lapped it up.

They had rejoiced when Brown scored a diving header in the league encounter at Ibrox back in October and promptly slid on his knees to the corner of the Copland Road Stand and the Sandy Jardine Stand to celebrate.

The 36-year-old had dropped back into defence and played at centre half that evening due to a lengthy injury list. But he had performed brilliantly as the visitors earned a deserved 2-2 draw.

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Brown will never have the prowess of Miller – who Sir Alex Ferguson rates as the best penalty box defender he ever worked with in his long and trophy-laden managerial career – in that position or any other.

Yet, when it comes to influencing referees he is right up there with the legendary Aberdeen captain. 

He was in Kevin Clancy’s ear from kick-off to the final whistle last night. He was on a booking when he clapped Kent off. It looked like unsporting behaviour to those viewing proceedings from the away section and neutral observers watching on television from home. But did the match official take action?

Such conduct may show a lack of respect to the game and might not set a very good example to impressionable youngsters. But in Scottish fitba being so streetwise is priceless. His detractors would, as the old saying goes, love it if he played for their team. Rangers badly needed somebody with the same sort of devilment.   

Chris Strachan, who helps run the Blazing Lambs Supporters Club, had his reservations when Brown, who combines playing with coaching at Pittodrie, moved to Aberdeen in the summer. However, he has been impressed with his performances and enjoyed his antagonistic streak.   

“I was a bit dubious when we signed him because of his Celtic connections,” he said. “He was never a player who I liked when he played against us.

“But I would say he has been one of Aberdeen’s better players this season. He is versatile and will play wherever he is asked. He has played in several positions for us and has always done well. He has an arrogant side and, as you saw last night, likes to wind up rival players. But he is a true professional.

“I don’t think he will ever win everyone in the Aberdeen support over. One or two of them will still remember his Celtic days. But I would say that 90 per cent of fans are behind him. Once he puts on a red shirt he gives his all for Aberdeen.”

The 1-1 draw with Rangers last night kept Aberdeen in sixth spot in the table. If Scott Brown can help them climb up the league in the second half of the 2021/22 campaign he will rise further in the admiration of their followers.

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