SCOTT BROWN has revealed how losing to Rangers last season was the catalyst behind his decision to quit playing for Scotland.
The Celtic captain won 50 caps for the country before calling time on his international career in August, ahead of the start of preparations for 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
But, as he explained, it was the defeat to the Hoops’ historic rivals at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi-final four months earlier which started to convince him he should focus himself entirely on club football.
“The loss to Rangers last season was a kind of watershed moment for me,” said the 31 year old, who badly under-performed on the day.
“That is when I started thinking about Scotland and what I had to do.
“That’s when I started thinking about not training as much, trying to take time off and look after my body off the park and on the park as well.
“It was becoming like a 12-month season for me because you were away with Scotland then get eight to 10 days off and then coming back in to Celtic, playing all the time.
“It wasn’t a drag for me because I enjoy playing football but it was a drag on my body.
“Now I am using the time off at international breaks to let my body totally recover and heal any aches and pains and it is definitely helping.”
Today, it means instead of going into the game struggling for fitness, Brown is raring to go again at the national stadium, a venue where he clinched his first success over a decade ago.
The Hoops skipper was just 21 years old back in March 2007 when he helped Hibernian to their first major trophy since 1991.
“I don’t remember the night but it was a great day,” he said.
“I lifted the trophy along with Rob Jones, Steven Fletcher did really well and Lewis Stevenson got man of the match.
“It was my first trophy and you are always going to remember that.
“We went back to Easter Road at night, we did the open-top bus parade and met the fans.
“We went to the stadium too and all got announced one by one. After that, it was a blur.
“That was a great occasion. To be so young and win a trophy with Hibs, their first since 1991, was a great honour.
“We were a young team who were developing and there was talk about us going on to big teams.”
Big teams, of course, don’t always win on the big stage.
Celtic’s defeat by Rangers last season was their third successive semi-final loss at Hampden, the previous two having come against Ross County and Inverness
“We have always struggled there in the past but it’s a new manager and a new team,” said Brown.
“It’s a fresh start for us. We need to start over and try to win the first trophy of the season.
“The gaffer has given us a lot of belief and that’s what he wants to achieve.
“He has put a strong team out all through the competition and we want to win the cup.
“We will see a full Hampden and hopefully it will be a good match too.”