The Scottish FA today mourns the loss of Craig Brown, the former men’s national team manager and one of the most beloved personalities in the game.
Craig remained a familiar face in Scottish football until his death, and was a passionate advocate of our national game long after leaving front-line management in 2013.
He is best remembered for leading the Scotland men’s national team to UEFA EURO 96, in England, and the FIFA World Cup in France in 1998.
But to those who had the privilege of his company and his experience during a 60-year association with Scottish football, he was a pioneer and innovator, a teacher and a mentor to generations of players who graduated to coaching and management under his tutelage.
In later years his passion for football remained undiminished, lending his unparalleled experience to Aberdeen FC as non-executive director and ambassador, but also being a regular attendee at football grounds the length and breadth of the country, as well as supporting countless charities.
He was a one-off. When his playing career – which included spells with Rangers, Dundee and Falkirk – was cut short by serious knee injury, Craig seamlessly stepped into management at Clyde in 1977. He did so successfully for a decade, splitting his time between the dug-out and the Head Teacher’s office of a primary school, before being promoted to the ranks of primary education lecturer at Craigie College in Ayr.
His unique combination of football coaching and teaching skills caught the eye of the Scottish FA, who in 1986 appointed him to the dual role of men’s national team assistant manager and assistant technical director, working alongside Andy Roxburgh in setting out an ambitions and world-leading coach education programme, one that remains revered to this day.
After the tragic passing of the great Jock Stein in Cardiff in 1985, he was called-up by Sir Alex Ferguson to join Walter Smith as part of his coaching team for World Cup 1986 in Mexico, and he was named as assistant to Andy Roxburgh when he was appointed to the role of manager after the World Cup, qualifying for World Cup Italia 90.
His remit was far-reaching. He led the Under-20s to the quarter-finals of the FIFA 1987 World Championship in Chile, narrowly losing to Berti Vogts’ West Germany. Scotland also famously hosted the FIFA Under-16 World Cup in 1989, with Craig leading the Scots all the way to the final and a narrow penalty shoot-out defeat to Saudi Arabia. Three years later he coached the Under-21s to the semi-finals of the 1992 UEFA Under-21 Championship, losing by one goal on aggregate to Sweden over two legs.
He took the reins of the men’s national team in 1993 after a short spell in caretaker charge and will be fondly remembered for inspiring Scotland to both the 1996 UEFA European Championship and 1998 FIFA World Cup, where Scotland drew the gaze of world football by taking part in the opener against Brazil.
In 1999, Scotland also beat England 1-0 in what was to prove the last European Championship qualifier at the old Wembley.
Craig stepped down in 2001 and remains the longest-serving Scotland manager to date.
Preston North End tempted him back to club football and he spent two years there as manager, enjoyed a short advisory stint at Fulham and worked as a football consultant to Billy Davies at Derby County.
A return north of the border followed, as he led Motherwell to a top-six finish after his appointment at Fir Park in 2009, before he was appointed by Aberdeen a year later.
He was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and while he relinquished managerial duties at Pittodrie, he remained a hugely respected and trusted figure in the Pittodrie boardroom.
Mike Mulraney, Scottish FA President: “Words cannot do justice to the impact Craig Brown has had on Scottish football and on behalf of the Scottish FA, and his friends and former colleagues at Hampden Park, I send our deepest condolences to his family. As Scotland men’s national team coach, he took us to EURO 96 in England – a tournament that only recently he described as one he and the players simply could not allow the fans to miss out on. He also took us to the World Cup in 1998 where we opened the tournament against Brazil with the iconic ‘kilt walk’ pre-match.
“But he was much more than that - he was meticulous in his coaching preparation and passionate in his support of Scottish football. The greatest tribute that can be paid to his professional capabilities is the respect in which he was held by his peers, who also happened to be our all-time great coaches: among them Jock Stein, Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith, Jim McLean and Andy Roxburgh.
“Craig deserves his place in the pantheon of great coaches. He will be missed – but never forgotten – by those who had the pleasure of his company, or by the fans and players who shared in his successes as Scotland manager.”
Steve Clarke, Scotland Head Coach: “Craig led the way in bringing sustained qualification to the men’s national team, first as assistant to Andy Roxburgh and then in his own right. He was a student of the game and I am proud to say that I followed in his footsteps by taking a Scotland team back to a major tournament. The thoughts of the players and my backroom staff go to Craig’s family and friends at this difficult time.”