From his time at Clyde, to leading Scotland to two national tournaments, Craig Brown has shown his knowledge and experience of football to be second-to-none.
Before Craig started his foray into management, he was assistant manager at Motherwell, where he teamed up with the man, you could argue made him the manager he would one day become.
Craig said: “Before I got the job, I was assistant manager at Motherwell under Willie, Jim and Tommy McLean, who were arguably the most knowledgeable football family in the country.
“When I was a young boy, I used to support Hamilton and Jim McLean was a player there at the time, and he wasn’t a lazy player but he wasn’t the most industrious. Willie was also an excellent manager for Queen of the South, Morton, Raith Rovers and Motherwell and I learnt a lot of things from him.”
Craig then cut his teeth into management when he was appointed manager of the Bully Wee, over 40 years ago.
On the appointment, Craig said “When I went to Clyde in 1977, Billy McNeill had just left and had recommended me to the Clyde board, and at that time the main priority was to keep the club afloat financially.
“Every year the club had sold at least one player, and we sold six for decent money and that helped keep us alive, especially since we were a part-time team in a division that had full time clubs.”
Craig then moved on to talk about the players he sold and signed during his time at Shawfield. He said:
“If I had to look back at my time with Clyde, I would say the best player I sold was probably Gerry McCabe to Clydebank for £60,000. They were probably the same level as us, but they were desperate to get into the First Division.
“We also sold Ian Ferguson to St. Mirren for £60,000, however, one of the first players I sold was Steve Archibald to Aberdeen for £25,000. I also sold Raymond Deans to Doncaster Rovers for £40,000, Joe Ward to Aston Villa for £95,000, Jim Boyd to Motherwell for £25,000 and Tommy McQueen to Aberdeen for £90,000.
“My high profile signing would be Pat Niven, who won the Second Division Player of the Year and while playing for us, he won the UEFA European Youth Championship with Scotland U18s.
“I am talking about the players we sold and signed because it was vitally important that we kept the club respectable and financially viable, and I am proud of that. I had a great time at Clyde, they had great people, great supporters and were a great club to manage.”
The Bully Wee now play at Broadwood, having left Shawfield in 1986. On his thoughts about Clyde now, Craig had nothing but kind words to say: “My thoughts are very positive about Clyde, because I love the club. I always look out for the result every Saturday, and try and see them play when I can, and they have an excellent manager in Danny Lennon.”
Craig then spent what many would agree, the highlight and peak of his whole career when he joined the SFA. He had 15 success-laden years with the association, from managing the under-16’s all the way up to the national team.
He said: “When I left Clyde, I went to the SFA to be the manager of the under-21 team and assistant manager under Andy Roxburgh.
“I had a very successful time with the SFA, especially the young teams.
“I took the Under 16s to the FIFA 1989 World Cup final against Saudi Arabia at Hampden, where we lost on penalties with over 52,000 in attendance. I led the Under 20s to the quarter-finals of the FIFA 1987 World Championship in Chile, narrowly losing to Berti Vogts’ West German team. Also, in 1992, I was in the semi-finals of the UEFA Championship with the Under 21s, where we unluckily lost by one goal against Sweden across two legs.”
Craig recalls the moments when the team progressed to the 1986, 1990 and 1998 World Cup and points out one recurring theme and how he believes that impacted on Scotland’s progression. He said: “I remember going into the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and the best player Scotland had at that time was Kenny Dalglish, and he was injured. In 1990, the best choice of player we had was Rangers player, Davie Cooper, who had a brilliant season that year, also injured.
“Then when I had the team in 1998, the best player then was Gary McAllister and he was injured. That was three World Cup campaigns for Scotland, and on every occasion, the best player injured.
“I think that, when Alex Ferguson was in charge in Mexico, had we had Dalglish in our squad we would’ve qualified out of that group.”
In addition, Craig also summed up his thoughts on his career as a whole, and he can only do so with a smile on his face. He said: “Looking back, I tremendously enjoyed my time with the SFA as manager and assistant manager, now I know we’re not supposed to like the SFA, but I’ve been lucky and I’ve liked all the clubs I’ve been at.
“I’ve played for three in Scotland, managed three in Scotland, managed three in England as well as coached at all levels of the men’s international team. That’s nine different clubs, including the SFA, I’ve had the privilege to be part of, and I am very lucky to have had an opportunity at each of them.”
Scotland under Steve Clarke, last year qualified for Euro 2020, which was the first time the national team had reached a European tournament in nearly 25 years. Craig couldn’t speak highly enough of the Scotland manager, saying: “I am hugely impressed with Steve Clarke, and not only with the job he’s done with Scotland and Kilmarnock but he’s been the assistant at huge jobs with Liverpool and Newcastle, so he’s very much a football man.
“When he got the Scotland job, I phoned him and congratulated him and I think he is doing a great job with the Scotland team.”
However, Craig also gave his thoughts as to why Clarke has been able to select the quality of players that have been in his squads. He said: “I think he is a bit more fortunate than his predecessors, because when I was there, Rangers and Celtic were competing well in Europe.
“I could go to England and get Premier League players, like Colin Hendry, Kevin Gallacher and Billy McKinlay from Blackburn and Liverpool where Gary McAllister won three trophies in one season- so I was able to go to the top teams in England and only now are Scotland doing that with Steve Clarke.”
Craig was also keen to mention the lack of eligibility of the players that are in most of Rangers and Celtic’s starting XI’s. He said: “At Livingston, Rangers didn’t have one single player who was eligible for Scotland and the only one would be their excellent goalkeeper, Allan McGregor and he’s retired.
“Also, I was at the Celtic v Aberdeen game, and I only counted four eligible Celtic players. “So, Stevie is lucky that he can recruit out of the Premier League, unlike previous managers, such as, Gordon Strachan, Alex McLeish and Craig Levein, who would’ve had to select from Championship teams, so I give enormous credit to Steve Clarke.”
Scotland have drawn against Euro 2020 quarter-finalists Ukraine in the World Cup semi-final play-offs:
When asked about his thoughts on the draw Craig said: “We have a great chance, and it’s at Hampden, which is a great park to play on and the atmosphere is even greater. Ukraine will be playing against a really strong, fit Scottish squad, and for us it is a great chance to get in the final. If England can beat Ukraine 4-0, then so can we.
“The quality we have in the Scotland squad right now is fantastic, with young Nathan Patterson and players like James Forrest, Scott McKenna, John Souttar, David Turnbull, John Nisbet, Ryan Fraser and Ryan Christie. However, because of the abundance of quality, players of that calibre aren’t guaranteed starting positions.”
Over the past few years and months, Scottish football have sadly lost legends such as, Billy McNeill and Bertie Auld to dementia. On why it’s important to raise awareness of the degenerative disease, Craig said: “I think it is really important that we highlight the awareness and the huge concern of it, and I think with them banning players of a certain young age to head a ball, it makes sense.
“I think it [dementia] is absolutely heart breaking and I think what is the most sad thing about it is that it can’t be avoided.”