Brown started his career with Scottish Premier League club Hibernian, breaking into the first team in 2002. His only trophy with Hibs was the 2007 Scottish League Cup; in this season he also won the SFWA Young Player of the Year award. In 2007, he moved to Celtic for a fee of £4.4 million, the highest transfer fee paid between two Scottish clubs. In the 2007–08 season, his first with Celtic, he helped the club win the SPL title for a third consecutive year. In 2009 he won the Scottish League Cup a second time and was also named SPFA Players' Player of the Year. He was appointed as captain of Celtic in February 2010, and won the Scottish Cup the following season.
Brown played for Scotland at under-19 and under-21 levels before making his full debut in November 2005, aged 20. He did not play for Scotland again until March 2007 but then became a regular in the squad. He scored his first goal for the senior team on 5 September 2009 in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification win over Macedonia. In March 2016, he won his 50th cap and was inducted on the Scotland national football team roll of honour.
Brown was born on 25 June 1985 in Dunfermline, Scotland. He grew up in Hill of Beath, a small village in Fife. Former Rangers and Scotland player Jim Baxter was also born in the village and a statue to him stands across the road from the house Brown grew up in. Brown attended Dalgety Bay Primary School, Hill of Beath Primary School and Beath High School.
Brown trained with Falkirk. Rangers were interested in taking Scott Brown but Rangers told him he was too small to make the grade.
Brown joined Hibernian aged 13, after he was spotted by their chief scout John Park. His mother Heather would regularly take Brown to Hibs training sessions in Edinburgh and Motherwell, where he was coached by Gordon Rae and Keith Wright, among others.
Brown signed for Hibernian as a professional in 2002 and made his debut as a substitute in a 3–1 win against Aberdeen on 3 May 2003. Brown, aged 17, said that "I was very nervous when I went on but that soon disappeared when I got involved in the game." He helped set up all three of Hibs goals in that match. Brown made his first starting appearance the following week, in a 1–0 win against Motherwell. Brown then started in Hibs' remaining two matches of the season and scored in both, a double in a 2–1 win against Livingston and in a 3–2 defeat to Partick Thistle. Brown was part of a "Golden Generation" for Hibs, also including players like Kevin Thomson, Garry O'Connor, Derek Riordan, Steven Whittaker and Steven Fletcher, who all progressed through their youth team at around the same time.
Brown became a regular in the Hibernian team in the 2003–04 season, playing 41 times in all competitions and scoring four goals. Despite only finishing eighth in the SPL, Hibs reached the 2004 League Cup final, defeating both Celtic and Rangers en route, but they lost 2–0 to Livingston in the final. Brown featured in all of the matches in that cup run and scored in the 9–0 win over Montrose in the third round.
Brown, along with several other young players at the club, then flourished under the guidance of new manager Tony Mowbray. He missed four months of the 2004–05 season due to an injury sustained against Celtic. He consequently played in only 23 matches, scoring just twice, including the second goal in a 3–1 win over Celtic at Celtic Park.
The 2005–06 season was also blighted somewhat by injury, as Brown missed most of the second half of the season due to a broken leg sustained in a challenge by Hearts midfielder Julien Brellier. He therefore missed the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat against Hearts, but he featured in the last Edinburgh derby of the season, coming on as a substitute in a 2–1 win for Hibs. Brown agreed a new contract with Hibs in March 2006.
The 2006–07 season saw Brown emerge as one of the better players in the Scottish game. Brown helped Hibs win their first trophy in 16 years as they defeated Kilmarnock 5–1 in the League Cup Final. Brown handed in a transfer request to the Hibernian assistant manager, Tommy Craig, after their home game against Dundee United on 2 December 2006. The action was thought to be taken on the advice of agent Willie McKay, who Brown had recently appointed. Scotland manager Walter Smith criticised Brown and teammate Kevin Thomson for not showing enough responsibility in their dealings with Hibs, given that they had both recently agreed contracts with the club. On 31 January 2007, Brown announced that he was retracting his transfer request and was now happy to remain with Hibernian for the duration of his contract, which was due to end in mid-2009. Despite this, media rumours continued to suggest that he would move. Kevin Thomson, who had signed for Rangers in January 2007, claimed to have spoken with Brown about joining him at Rangers. Premier League club Reading confirmed that they reached agreement with Hibernian to sign Brown, but the player refused the move, saying:
Reading were indeed relegated at the end of the 2007–08 season. Despite intense speculation that he would move to Rangers, with Rangers fans taunting Hibs fans that Brown would sign for them, Brown agreed a move to Celtic. Willie McKay commented that Brown was excited about playing for such a successful club and the chance to play in the UEFA Champions League. Brown was transferred for £4.4 million, the largest transfer fee exchanged between two Scottish clubs. The previous record was the £4 million transfer of Duncan Ferguson from Dundee United to Rangers. Brown scored in his final appearance for Hibs, against Celtic, for whom he had agreed to sign the previous week. During the game he was cheered by both sets of supporters.
Brown made his Celtic debut in a goalless draw against Kilmarnock on 5 August 2007. Ten days later, he made his UEFA Champions League debut in a 1–1 draw at Spartak Moscow. Brown cleared a header off the Celtic goal line to keep the scores level. His first goal for Celtic came on 25 August, in a 5–0 win against Hearts. Four days later, he played in the return leg against Spartak. Brown won a penalty in extra time, but it was missed by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. Celtic went on to win the resulting penalty shootout to qualify for the Champions League group stage. Brown scored in a 5–1 win over St Mirren on 2 September, one week after scoring against Hearts. He played in Celtic's 2–1 win over reigning European champions Milan at Celtic Park.
On 6 November 2007, Brown was on the receiving end of a heavy tackle by Gilles Binya during Celtic's 1–0 win over Benfica, but he was relatively unhurt. Binya was subsequently given a six match European ban following the dangerous challenge. Celtic finished second in their Champions League group with nine points. They were drawn with Barcelona in the last 16, but Brown missed the 3–2 defeat in the first leg through suspension. He returned for the second leg at the Camp Nou, which Celtic lost 1–0. Brown was suspended for three league matches, including two Old Firm games, in April 2008. Due to this suspension, manager Gordon Strachan chose a midfield pairing of Barry Robson and Paul Hartley for the final weeks of the season. Brown made a total of 48 appearances for Celtic in his first season with the club, scoring three goals.
Early in the 2008–09 season, Strachan praised Brown for re-inventing himself as a more defensive-minded player. Despite taking on these defensive duties, Brown still contributed some goals, such as against his former club Hibernian on 25 October. Brown won the SPL Player of the Month Award for October 2008. In the January transfer window he was linked with a £9 million move to Portsmouth, with Tottenham also reported to be interested in him. Brown stated that he did not want to leave Celtic and that he was happy with the club. Later in the month, he was named by FIFA as one of their players to watch in 2009. He scored his first brace for Celtic in a 7–0 victory over St Mirren on 28 February 2009. Brown was voted Man of the Match in the 2009 League Cup Final, which Celtic won 2–0 against Rangers at Hampden Park. and was awarded the SPFA Players' Player of the Year for the 2008–09 season. Due to a suspension, he missed the final Old Firm game of the season, which Celtic lost 1–0. This defeat proved crucial as Rangers regained the championship from Celtic. He suffered an ankle injury towards the end of the season and had to take injections in order to play matches. Brown played 48 times for Celtic during the 2008–09 season, scoring seven goals.
Following the resignation of Strachan at the end of the 2008–09 season, Brown's former Hibs boss Tony Mowbray became Celtic manager. Brown underwent surgery during pre-season in an attempt to rectify his ankle problem, but this didn't work, and he played matches despite not being fully fit. Celtic had a fairly good start to their league campaign, going into the first Old Firm match four points ahead of Rangers, but they lost 2–1. Celtic beat Dynamo Moscow in Champions League qualifying, but then lost the play-off to Arsenal, which meant that they dropped into the Europa League group stage. The 1–0 home defeat by Hamburg on 22 October 2009 was Brown's last action of the year, as Celtic initially chose to rest him in another effort to heal the ankle injury. This proved unsuccessful, and he underwent a second operation in Rotterdam to try and clear up his ankle injury.
Brown made his comeback in February 2010 as a substitute in a 1–0 defeat to Kilmarnock, during which he took the captaincy of the team. Mowbray confirmed later that week that Brown would assume the Celtic captaincy. Brown was sent off in the third Old Firm game of the season, after a confrontation with Rangers player Kyle Lafferty. BBC Sport described the decision to dismiss Brown as "harsh". Mowbray was sacked by Celtic in March 2010 and replaced by Neil Lennon, initially on a caretaker basis. After this, Celtic won their remaining eight league matches of the season. Brown played in all of them, and managed to score in Celtic's 3–1 victory over Kilmarnock on 27 March which was Lennon's first match in charge. On 10 April, Brown played in Celtic's 2–0 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to First Division side Ross County. Being knocked out of this competition meant that Celtic would finish a season without a trophy for the first time in seven years. After the match, Brown apologised to the Celtic fans for the team's performance and stated that it was the players', and not the manager's, fault that Celtic had lost.
After being appointed manager on a permanent basis during the summer, Neil Lennon retained Brown as captain because he had contributed significantly to Lennon keeping his position. Brown played in many of Celtic's matches during the early stage of the 2010–11 season. He also managed to get his first goal for the club since March when, on 25 September 2010, he scored a "superb volley" against Hibernian. On 2 October, Brown played in Celtic's 3–1 win over Hamilton before leaving for international duty. He suffered an injury during the game that was reported to be a metatarsal injury, which would mean he would be out for six weeks. Celtic later stated that he had in fact suffered a stress reaction in a metatarsal on his right foot and that he would be out for around ten weeks. Lennon expressed his concern at the injury, as Brown had been one of Celtic's key players. Despite initial fears that Brown would be out until the new year he made his return for Celtic on Boxing Day as they beat St Johnstone 2–0 at home. He then started his second match in three days as Celtic beat Motherwell 1–0, however Brown was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the 89th minute. This meant he would miss the upcoming Old Firm match on 2 January.
Brown scored against Rangers in a Scottish Cup tie at Ibrox on 6 February 2011, which earned Celtic a replay. Brown and El Hadji Diouf, who had played directly against each other on Celtic's right wing, had exchanged words throughout much of the game. After scoring his goal, Brown turned to Diouf and raised his arms in a taunting celebration, he was booked for this. After the match they continued their feud in the media the next day. Two days after the match, Brown then stated that he considered their altercations to be "just a bit of banter" which he regularly encountered on the pitch and that the yellow card he received for his celebration was the best of his life. Several days later, Lennon publicly stated he wanted to agree a new contract with Brown. In the lead up to the replay of the Scottish Cup match, Rangers player Kyle Bartley said that not many Rangers players liked Brown and that they would be targeting him in the next game.
Brown was booked in Celtic's penultimate league game against Kilmarnock, which caused him to go over the disciplinary points threshold and receive a suspension for the first two matches of the 2011–12 season. Brown helped Celtic to the 2011 Scottish Cup Final, which Celtic won 3–0 against Motherwell. This allowed him to collect his first trophy as Celtic captain. Brown played 39 times for Celtic, scoring four goals, during the 2010–11 season. He was often used on the right of midfield, partly due to the form of other central midfielders such as Beram Kayal, Joe Ledley and Ki Sung-Yueng, but also because Brown is more able to play in wide areas than them.
At the start of the 2011–12 season, Newcastle United were linked with a £6 million bid for Brown, as a replacement for their outgoing captain Kevin Nolan. Brown stated that he did not want to leave Celtic and that he felt privileged to be the captain. He also said that he wanted to sign a new contract as his current deal was to expire at the end of the season. Internazionale and Juventus were also reportedly looking to sign him on a free transfer if he did not sign a new contract. After protracted talks, Brown announced on 29 August that he was to sign a new contract in the next few weeks. Due to his SPL suspension incurred at the end of the 2010–11 season, Brown's first match of the new campaign was Scotland's 2–1 win over Denmark on 10 August. He suffered an ankle injury in this match, but played in the next five games for Celtic and the next international match. He missed Celtic's 4–0 win over Motherwell, on 10 September, due to the injury and then the 2–0 loss to Atlético Madrid five days later.
He returned for the first Old Firm match of the season on 18 September 2011, but was substituted towards the end of the match after suffering a further recurrence of the injury. Neil Lennon said after the match that Brown had been one of Celtic's best players, as he had been involved in both of their goals during the 4–2 defeat. Celtic announced after the match that Brown would have to go and see a specialist and would be out of action for several months. Brown made his return on 30 November, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 1–0 loss against Atlético Madrid. The next day, he was able to talk with other clubs about signing a pre-contract agreement. However, Brown signed a new three-year deal on 3 December, with Celtic having the option of extending his contract for a further season. The deal had been delayed for so long because Celtic were not willing to pay the fee demanded by Brown's advisors. Brown continued his comeback by scoring in a 2–0 away win against St Mirren on 21 January 2012. He then scored a penalty against Falkirk, in a 3–1 League Cup semi-final win, on 30 January. He followed this up with another penalty in Celtic's 2–0 win over Inverness five days later. Brown was then named Player of the Month for January 2012. On 25 March 2012, Brown scored a penalty in Celtic's 3–2 loss to Rangers.
On 1 October 2013, in Celtic's second UEFA Champions League match of the group stage against Barcelona, Brown kicked out at Neymar and was sent off in the 59th minute. The sending off happened with the game at 0–0 and shortly after Brown's dismissal, Cesc Fàbregas would score the only goal of the game to give Barcelona a 1–0 victory.
Brown suffered a hamstring injury in a pre-season friendly match against Rapid Vienna in July 2014. He scored a goal in his first full game after injury, a 2–2 draw in a Europa League group match against FC Red Bull Salzburg. In November 2014, Brown signed a 4-year contract extension keeping him at the Parkhead club until 2018. He made his 300th appearance for Celtic on 21 December 2014 in a 2–1 loss at Dundee United. He made 48 appearances in all competitions in the 2014–15 season, scoring five times.
His only goal of the 2015–16 season came on 20 September 2015 in a 6–0 home win over Dundee.
Brown scored his first goal of the 2016–17 season on 17 August 2016 in a 5–2 win over Hapoel Be'er Sheva in a Champions League play-off match. He scored the 25th league goal of his Celtic career on 1 October 2016 in a 1–0 away win over Dundee, and made his 400th appearance for Celtic in a 1–0 win against St Johnstone on 25 January 2017.
Brown was a regular in the Scotland national under-21 football team managed by Rainer Bonhof, who recommended Brown to contacts in his native Germany. Brown made his debut for Scotland as a 74th-minute substitute for Garry O'Connor in a 1–1 friendly home draw against the United States on 12 November 2005. Scotland manager Walter Smith, who had picked a team featuring eight players under 23 years old, said that Brown performed well and described him as a "chirpy lad". Brown was then put back into the under-21 squad, but he was added to the full squad in September 2006 for the match with Lithuania. Brown was selected for the full squad for the Euro 2008 qualifiers against France and Ukraine in October 2006, but was not used in either game.
Brown made his competitive debut for Scotland in March 2007, coming on as a substitute for Gary Teale during a Euro 2008 qualifying match against Georgia. Having performed well in that appearance, Brown made his first start for Scotland in the following match, a 2–0 defeat against 2006 World Cup winners Italy. Brown then became a regular pick for the national team; he started in Scotland's 1–0 victory over 2006 World Cup runners-up France at the Parc des Princes in September 2007. Brown was named by FIFA.com as a player to watch in 2009. He scored his first goal for Scotland on 5 September 2009, in a 2–0 win over Macedonia in a 2010 World Cup qualifying match.
Brown scored the first goal of the Craig Levein era, in a 1–0 win over the Czech Republic on 3 March 2010. He then started the first two matches of Scotland's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, a 0–0 draw against Lithuania and a 2–1 win over Liechtenstein. He missed the next two matches, losses against the Czech Republic and 2010 World Cup winners Spain due to injury. Under Levein, Brown was one of Scotland's key players, with both the manager, and assistant Peter Houston saying that they admire Brown's energy and personality. Brown was suggested as a possible captain for the 2011 Nations Cup match against Northern Ireland, in the absence of Darren Fletcher, but Levein decided to give the armband to Kenny Miller instead. Brown ended up missing the match due to injury.
On 22 December 2011, it was revealed that Brown had been invited to the Great Britain team for the 2012 Olympics, although he was not actually selected for the squad that participated at the Games.
He played in four of Scotland's qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup, and was appointed captain by new Scotland manager Gordon Strachan in February 2013. Brown scored his third and fourth international goals in consecutive 1–0 away friendly wins over Norway and Poland.
On 29 March 2016, Brown played his 50th international in a 1–0 home win over Denmark, earning himself a place on the roll of honour. In August 2016, he announced his intention to retire from international football in order to dedicate all of his efforts to his club game. He then overturned his decision to retire two months later.
In their 2009 "ones to watch" segment FIFA.com described Brown as being a "dynamic box-to-box midfielder", who is "direct, athletic and combative", they also pointed out that he has a "reckless streak". When analysing the 2007 SPFA team of the year, BBC Sport described Brown's "skilful, energetic running" as being integral to Hibs' "fluent" style of play. Scotland Under-21 coach Rainer Bonhof said in 2007 that Brown was a modern midfield player, but he needed to be calmed to avoid disciplinary problems. Early in his career, Brown admitted that he had to avoid sugary products, such as chocolate or fizzy drinks, because they would make him hyperactive.
When previewing the 2011 Scottish League Cup Final, Hearts manager Jim Jefferies described Brown as follows:
He has, at times, been criticised for his passing ability. As well as not being able to channel his aggression into a more productive manner, he has also been criticised for his disciplinary record due to his tough tackling style and his lack of goalscoring since joining Celtic. The Daily Telegraph noted in the lead-up to the 2011 Scottish Cup Final that Brown had only scored six goals in the previous two seasons, but had received eighteen yellow cards and two red cards. After captaining Scotland to an away win over Poland in March 2014, the Scotland national manager described Brown as "fantastic", adding "He's ungainly in a way but he does what all good midfielders do: pass the ball, keep it, move it on. But then he has got the power to win the ball back."
Brown frequently finds himself in confrontations with opponents, often mocking them. Most memorable was during a Scottish Cup tie against Rangers at Ibrox in 2011 when he clashed several times with El-Hadji Diouf. Matters came to a head when Brown scored Celtic's equaliser, then turned round in front of Diouf with his arms outstretched and stared directly at the Rangers player. Brown was yellow carded by the referee, but afterwards said "It was the best booking I've had in my life." In a physical encounter against Ross County in 2013, he was booked for goading and laughing at Mihael Kovačević after the Ross County defender rushed up to him and shouted in his face. In August 2015, The Daily Record reported complaints from Qarabağ's Gara Garayev that several Celtic players mocked them during a Champions League qualifying, with Brown described as being "the worst".
Brown's younger sister Fiona died of skin cancer in May 2008, aged 21. He suffered this loss only two weeks after Celtic first team coach Tommy Burns had died of the same illness. Brown has a tattoo on his right forearm with his sister's dates of birth and death; he later had words from a well-known funeral poem tattooed next to this.
Brown married Lisa Taylor in June 2009, in a small ceremony in Cyprus. Instead of wedding gifts he set up a wishing well for guests to give donations to Cancer Research UK, in memory of his sister. As of June 2011, the couple had one son, named Shay.
Soon after signing for Celtic, Brown purchased a house in the Cramond area of Edinburgh for £1.475 million. He made the house available for sale in August 2012. Brown has been an Ambassador for the Homeless World Cup since 2014.As of match played 22 August 2017
As of match played 11 November 2016
As of match played 11 November 2016. Scotland score listed first, score column indicates score after each Brown goal.
Scottish League Cup (1): 2007
Scottish Premiership (7): 2007–08, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17
Scottish Cup (3): 2010–11, 2012–13, 2016–17
Scottish League Cup (3): 2008–09, 2014–15, 2016–17
Scotland national football team roll of honour: 2016
PFA Scotland Team of the Year (Premiership) (4): 2006–07, 2008–09, 2014–15, 2016–17