Scott shoots from the hip as he prepares to lead his nation

SCOTT BROWN was expected to be given tonight off, or at least used sparingly in consideration of his hip problem.

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Brown will be leading Hoops into Euro action next week
Brown will be leading Hoops into Euro action next week

But, typical of the unpredictably which provides the thread to his entire career, the man who will face Juventus in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, will be leading from the front when Scotland take on Estonia in a friendly at Pittodrie.

Neil Lennon has been fully briefed on Gordon Strachan's plans for the player whose fitness will have a major bearing on the Hoops' chances of causing another Euro shock next week.

But while Parkhead team-mate James Forrest is a cause for concern after it was decided it was best for everyone if he was sent back to his club to let the medical staff there check on the hamstring tightness, the effervescent Brown is taking his national service in his stride.

He has replaced the injured Gary Caldwell as Strachan's on-field lieutenant, and has already been rallying the troops in the impromptu question-and-answer sessions which have taken place at the team's HQ.

Brown does, of course, have 'previous' with the new Scotland boss, and that broad smile spread across his face as he said: "Yes, he was lucky enough to buy me from Hibs. Quite a few of the lads have been asking what he is like, if he's strict, if he is laid-back about training and things.

"But it's the same Gordon Strachan who was at Celtic. He wants training to be done at a high tempo and to be good."

When asked if the players will only really find out what Strachan is like when they get into the dressing room at Pittoride tonight, Brown sensed a suggestion there might lurk a different character when the pressure begins to build.

He quickly said: "No, he's more chilled out just now. He's looking forward to this game and is delighted to have this job.

"It is a huge job to manage your country, and there is no one better just now to do that. I think he will be a great man for the post."

Brown is one of those players Strachan loves working with, a sponge for information and a radiator in a group.

The midfielder responds well to his promptings and said: "He wants us to learn, and to show us what he has learned in the past couple of years when he has been going to watch games, including Champions League matches.

"He has shown us a couple of games on TV with a couple of different formations, and he has shown how to press teams high up the park. That's going to be good for us because we do that naturally at Celtic.

"Hopefully, the other lads in the team follow us."

That sense of humour refuses to be restrained, but Brown will be completely serious when he tries to put what he has been taught into practice tonight.

"The manager has shown us where we need to be when pressing the right or left-back, and how to win the ball back," he said.

"Then, once we are up the park, he can't help us. He has said it is up to us once we get into that final third what we do."

Hopefully, that will be to score the goals which will get Strachan's reign as national boss off to a winning start.

"I'd say this is the beginning of a new chapter, with a new manager and maybe a change in the tactics as well," said Brown.

"We are going to put teams under pressure."

Estonia will not be willing guinea pigs, but Brown is ready to go all out for the victory.

Scotand's results in friendlies have been notoriously poor for years, but no-one has appeared too perturbed about this record which has aided and abetted our slip down the all-important rankings.

Brown wants a change of mindset and said: "Tonight, the result is the main thing. We want to win every game.

"We're not going into this match thinking it will be okay five or six games down the line.

"We want to start now and really kick on and see where we can go."

Of course, winning against Wales when the damaged World Cup qualifying campaign resumes next month is much more important than tasting victory tonight, but Brown is greedy.

"I'd like to win both," he explained. "I'd like us to get off to a flyer tonight."

Motherwell's flying machine, Henrik Ojamaa, is one of the few Estonian players the bulk of the Tartan Army – or the Scotland players – are likely to recognise under the Pittodrie floodlights tonight.

But Brown anticipates they will come up against tough opponents.

"They are going to be hard to break down and solid," explained the Parkhead and Scotland captain.

"I'm sure they will work hard – but we're just going to have work harder."

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