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It'll be like a derby, says Scott Brown

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Scott Brown

Scott Brown

PA

Scott Brown

CELTIC Park tonight will be a stage for bravehearts and no place for the faint hearted. At least that's how Scotland star Scott Brown see the Group D encounter between his side and Ireland, which Celtic man Brown expects will be along the lines of an Old Firm game.

Scottish football - and by extension the tens of thousands of people on the island of Ireland who follow Celtic and Rangers - has done without the Old Firm games in recent seasons due to Rangers' drop down the divisions.

But with so much at stake, with two managers and two squads who know each other and the venue so well, tonight will not really be one for the purists.

Gordon Strachan said he hoped that Europe will cast an eye on Glasgow tonight and that fans outside of Ireland and Scotland will be keen to watch. "That will interest me if the game is a great advertisement for Scottish and Irish football," said Strachan.

PRETTY

But anyone expecting patience, precision and pretty football should really look elsewhere.

"It's definitely going to be like an Old Firm game, they will try come at us for the first 10-15 minutes," says Brown.

"I think it will start off at a hundred miles a hour. With 60,000 fans behind us it is going to be a great atmosphere. That's what will push us on.

"It will be huge, a great occasion, with I think 95% Scotland fans so it will be a great atmosphere and hopefully they can get behind us as they usually do.

"How do you deal with it all? You've just got to relax. Let the whole Scotland-Ireland, Rangers-Celtic or whatever you want it to be not get to you and try and focus on playing your own game."

Brown has played in enough big derbies, both in Edinburgh (from his spell with Hibs) and Glasgow (he's a Celtic man now) to know how games can turn. Tony Cascarino revealed earlier this week that he's still remembered by the green and white part of Glasgow for a goal he scored for the Bhoys in an Old Firm game and joked that any time he is in Glasgow, Celtic fans remind him that while he was "shite" he did indeed score against Rangers.

Moments like that live on but from tonight's game, it's the points that matter, not the opportunity to write a new legend for a player.

With Germany (at home to Gibraltar) and Poland (away to Georgia) likely to win their games today, neither Ireland nor Scotland can afford to lose at Parkhead.

"I wouldn't say it is a must-win game but we would like to win it. It will be hard but there are a lot of games to go yet and you never know what might happen," added Brown, admitting that the group so far has throw up unexpected results, like Ireland drawing in Germany and the Germans losing at home to Poland.

"That's why it is going to be a tight group. It's got to go all the way way a stake every game as it comes. This is a huge game and people say it doesn't matter about the Gibraltars but they are all huge games for us."

Speaking to the media at the Scottish team hotel outside Glasgow yesterday - where there was no sign of any autograph-hunting book clubs - Brown groaned and grimaced when asked about the issues dogging the Irish aside of the build-up, like Roy Keane's spot of bother and the potential for Aiden McGeady to receive a hostile reception.

"Let's just keep it about football. It's all been about Aiden and Roy Keane and stuff. Let's talk about the game," said Brown, who was willing to give his mind on his former Celtic team-mate Robbie Keane.

"He's a great player," says Brown.

"He's done really well. When he was with us for six months I didn't really realise how good he was but he is excellent. He is sharp and has a great goal scoring ability. What he brought to us for that six months was great for us and it was great for me to learn off him and play with such a top player."

For most of Brown's international career, Scotland have been also-rans and have never come close to qualification. But there seems to be a renewed spirit and vigour about the side under Srachan and they feel that qualification for the first since since France '98 is in sight.

STRONG

"Every game in these Euros is huge now for us and we need to try and keep going under Gordon," says Brown.

"We have been playing quite recently and and we want to keep it as positive as possible, we want to keep going forward and see what we can do.

"The manager knows the way we want to play and we keep going, no matter what, for 90 minutes. Once we do that we know we have a great chance because we believe the manager and he believes in us.

"We've got a strong team, I keep saying this every time we come in. You look in that dressing room and think any of those 23 we have got could play easily, and training has been great this week. We have played eleven eleven and bringing subs on in every position and doing really well," added Brown, seeing a sense of confidence in the panel.

"You have to try and be as positive as you can, try and create chances and everyone in that dressing-room works hard for each other.

"We believe if we do go 1-0 down that we can score a couple of goals. We have the players who can do that, player who can score goals from one or two attacks going forward, as it doesn't like we used to do that.

"Now we are taking those chances and putting them in the back of the net."


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