WHEN Aberdeen released a statement on Tuesday afternoon announcing that Scott Brown had departed the club, it should have come as little surprise.

It wasn’t long after Jim Goodwin was appointed as manager that whispers of discontent behind the scenes began to surface. Rumours of a falling-out between the Irishman and the 36-year-old midfielder were springing up left, right and centre and two days ago, Brown bit the bullet and left.

The Pittodrie board wished Brown well as they explained the reason for his exit. “He will now depart the Dons,” a statement read, “to allow him to focus on his coaching development with a view to taking the first steps in his managerial career when an opportunity arises. We wish him all the very best in his future career.”

The update from the North East club stopped short of announcing Brown’s retirement from playing but it would be little surprise if he decided to hang up his boots in the coming days. Barring a run where previous manager Stephen Glass experimented with playing him in a back three, Brown didn’t contribute enough on the park at Aberdeen despite being provided with ample opportunity to do so.

Brown’s days as a Premiership regular have been numbered for some time and Dons supporters this season have felt the frustrations of Celtic fans from the previous campaign. When it comes to winding up Rangers players and making funny faces at them, Brown remains utterly peerless. But he can no longer be relied upon as a regular top-flight starter.

Last week’s 2-0 defeat at Tynecastle proved to be Brown’s final appearance for Aberdeen and it showed why his immediate focus appears to be on his coaching career. He looked every one of his 36 years and was bypassed with ease time and time again before being hooked with 15 minutes to go.

It was the latest display where Brown simply hasn’t looked up to scratch and it’s difficult to see what other top-flight club would take him, bearing in mind he couldn’t cut the mustard at the Premiership’s tenth-placed team.

No one likes seeing great players’ quality diminish but the truth is that time waits for no man – not even one as defiant as the combative midfielder. His 14-year stint at Celtic probably lasted a year or two longer than it should and even when he dropped down a level, he was still found out.

If Brown wants to continue playing in some capacity he will likely have to drop down a division to receive game time. A coaching role, perhaps even an assistant’s job, at a Premiership team seems possible if there isn’t an expectation that the former Scotland internationalist will play week in, week out. If he decides to call it a day and focus entirely on his management career, he will surely have to do the same.

Some view Brown’s departure from Pittodrie as the perfect time to welcome the midfielder back to Celtic Park in a coaching role but to me, this seems a little far-fetched. His decision to leave Parkhead last summer, along with a number of key figures, allowed Ange Postecoglou to take charge and make a much-needed clean break with the club’s recent past. So far, at least, the new manager’s methods have been successful.

Bringing Brown back would upset the dynamic that Postecoglou has fostered during his time at the club and disrupt coaching regimens that are already in place and been carefully planned. The turnaround under the Greek-Australian has been pretty remarkable and I can’t see the sense in rocking the boat, particularly at such a crucial juncture of the season. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Brown reportedly held talks with St Mirren over their recent vacancy before the Paisley club ultimately opted for former Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson. The Buddies board deduced that the Northern Irishman’s experience trumped everything Brown had to offer and made their decision along those lines.

When James McPake was dismissed by Dundee, he was replaced by Mark McGhee, a manager with hundreds of top-flight games under his belt. When Glass’ failed experiment at Pittodrie was brought to a close Aberdeen turned to Goodwin, a coach who has forged an impressive reputation via his track record. And when St Mirren needed a new manager, they too turned to someone with demonstrable experience.

Given the close-knit nature of the Premiership at the moment – remember, there are only five points separating Hibernian in fourth and Aberdeen in tenth – it is an understandable approach. The margins between qualification for European football and getting dragged into a relegation dogfight have never been narrower, and it’s hard to make a case for handing the keys to an untested rookie.

Whether he likes it or not, that’s what Brown is and he may find himself having to go down a division or two to find the role he is looking for. There have been recent success stories for top-flight clubs handing a young manager their first fully-fledged job in recent years – Steven Gerrard at Rangers is an obvious example, as is Tam Courts at Dundee United – but more often than not, these individuals have years of backroom coaching experience to fall back on. Brown has just eight months or so of coaching at Aberdeen under his belt.

An illustrious playing career is no guarantee of an aptitude for management and the reality is that we simply don’t know what Brown’s credentials are. We haven’t had the chance to judge for ourselves. But whether he wants to carry on playing, focus solely on coaching or find a role that combines the two, Brown will likely have to shuffle a rung or two down the ladder in order to get his chance.