on the pain of losing his sister and why he’s been happy to stay at Celtic
IT’S something you don’t see often – Scott Brown’s pensive, solemn side.
Yes, there’s that 100-yard stare before every big match as the TV cameras zoom in and he zones out into his own little world. It’s become his trademark over the years.
He’s a ferocious competitor too. Sometimes a feisty, prickly one at that.
But, when not engaged in the heat of battle, Celtic’s captain is as laid back as they come. A notorious joker and master of self-deprecation who takes very little seriously and, most certainly, not himself.
In fact, as he recounts his life story, there is perhaps only one episode which wipes the smile from his face for any significant length of time.
He draws a hand across his mouth as he pauses for a moment’s thought. Ten years on, this is still a difficult exercise. “I probably didn’t deal with it very well over the first couple of seasons,” Brown confesses when asked how he managed to cope with the illness which would eventually rob him of his beloved little sister Fiona, during his early days as a Celtic player.
“But Gordon Strachan was always there for me, no matter what. Not that many people knew what was going on because we had kept things very quiet after the initial diagnosis.
“Then one day I got a phone call from my wee sister.
“She was in tears telling me she had someone from the press banging on her door.
“It was a reporter from the News of the World.
“So I asked her where she was. She told me she was in the dorms at her university in Dundee. I told her to stay inside and not move until I got there. I left Edinburgh driving like a maniac. I was rally driving all the way up to Dundee.
“I think I phoned Peter Lawwell to tell him what was going on. I mean, we all knew it would get out eventually.
“At that time we were still hoping that the cancer could be cured and that everything was going to be fine. So this was the last thing anyone needed.
“Peter was telling me to calm down. Not to do anything stupid. But it was going in one ear and out of the other. Fiona was phoning me in tears, telling me she didn’t want to go outside. And I was getting angrier and angrier.
“To be fair, the guy was lucky that he left before I got there.
“And I’m probably lucky too because I would have done something I would have regretted for the rest of my life. I was stuck in traffic going over the Forth Road Bridge. I can remember it as clear as day.
“Fiona was on the phone saying, ‘What do I do?’
“I just told her, ‘Fi, close the door. Don’t do nothing. I’ll be up there as quick as I can’.
“My mum and dad wanted to drive up but I told them, ‘No, I’ll deal with this’. I never did
find out who the guy was that went to the door. I’m glad about that for both our sakes.
“I would have lost the plot because I was just a young boy and this was my family he was messing around with.
“At that time, the News of the World would have done anything to get a story like that. So I picked her up and took her back down the road. Things became hard from that point on because we now knew that other people knew about her illness and that it was being talked about. Until then, it had been kept very quiet.
“But we knew now that it was starting to leak out. Someone had told someone else at university and now people knew where she lived.
“So she didn’t want to go back up there after that.
“To be fair to her, she still qualified with a degree even after all of that. But it wasn’t a great time for her, for me or for the family.”
Fiona lost her year-long struggle with skin cancer in May 2008. She was just 21.
How would her doting big brother ever fully recover from the trauma?
“In some ways, football was
In some ways, football was what kept me going SCOTT BROWN ON DEALING WITH SISTER’S DEATH
what kept me going,” Brown says but without looking too convinced.
It’s almost as if, all these years on, the man himself is not too sure how he got through the tragedy with his own career intact.
Brown goes on: “It’s good because you are in there every day and you try to switch off for as long as possible.
“But when she was going through it, I felt as if there was nothing I could do to help her.
“Then, eventually, you get the phone call to say its incurable. That there’s nothing they can do. How are you supposed to deal with words like that?
“I’ll be honest, I was like, ‘F ****** football man, f*** this!’
“It was coming towards the end of the season and I had had injury problems. I wasn’t motivated to get back playing.
“Stracho told me he was going to keep me out of the team for a while. We ended up winning the league that season with Paul Hartley and Barry Robson in the middle of midfield, where I should have been.
“The manager just told me I’d be on the bench and I’d come on if and when I was needed.
“He understood the situation I was in. He was probably a wee bit worried that if I was out there and there was a ball to be won, that I might have smashed someone or did something I would regret for a long time. He was good that way.
“Peter Lawwell was also on the phone during that time making sure I was all right.”
These bonds that were being forged in the darkest of circumstances were to prove powerful and long lasting.
Brown nods: “It’s probably why I have stayed here so many years because I have had offers to go elsewhere. But Peter and Gordon really helped me through a difficult time. I can’t praise Gordon enough for what he did for me.
“He was the daft b ****** who signed me in the first place and Celtic have been stuck with me now for 11 years.
“But that was Gordon all over. He ended up staying for a year longer than he wanted to at Celtic because of what was going on with Tommy Burns. He stayed one last season for Tommy – to help him out and to help his family out during a time of need. That tells you all about his loyalties as a human being.”
On May 15, 2008, Burns passed away. In a last act of kindness, he arranged for flowers to be sent to Fiona. Two weeks later, her life was taken too.
Both gone way too soon. But never forgotten.
CLOSE Scott Brown with tragic sister Fiona and Uncle Ron. Right, Gordon Strachan offered great support CAPTAIN MARVEL Celebrating an Old Firm victory TRIBUTE Wearing Tommy Burns T-shirt in 2008 and, left, that Broonie stare