Having enjoyed a career in football that spans nearly five decades, there is not much that Billy Brown has not experienced. But the recent betting allegations levelled against Rangers midfielder Ian Black have taken even him by surprise.
Brown, back at Tynecastle as assistant to manager Gary Locke, was No 2 to Jim Jefferies at the club when Black plied his trade in Gorgie.
The 2012 Scottish Cup winner has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week after the Scottish Football Association issued a notice of complaint against the 28-year-old.
It alleges that, between March 2006 and July 2013, Black staked money on his “then-registered club” not to win.
The playmaker has turned out for Inverness, Hearts and his current employers during that period.
Black is also accused of placing a further ten bets on football matches that involved his own team at that time, and laying wagers on a further 147 games. Players under the jurisdiction of the SFA are prohibited from betting on any football match around the world.
But, while Brown knows that some fail to observe these rules to the letter when it comes to what could be perceived as harmless weekend coupons, he would certainly take umbrage at the thought of players betting against their own team.
“I have been in football since I was 15 and I’ve never heard anything like this,” said Brown. “I didn’t think that it happened, but it obviously has. If you break the rules you are going to get in trouble, so you shouldn’t break the rules.
“I don’t know if that’s ever happened with anyone I have ever had.
“But I wouldn’t like it to happen. It shouldn’t happen. I never bet on football, I put my trust in horses, not football players.
“You wouldn’t be happy about a player betting on your own team to lose. As I say, I have never had to face that sort of thing so I don’t know how I would handle it. It’s certainly doesn’t sound very good if you have bet against your own team.”
Brown, however, insists it would be naive to think that players do not frequent the bookmakers.
“I certainly do not agree on betting on games that involve your own team,” he added. “In general, I suppose a lot of players do fixed odds coupons on a Saturday but they’re not supposed to. It’s a cultural thing in Scotland, people put coupons on every week. Maybe some players don’t know the rules.”
Brown knows Black, having worked with him for 18 months at Hearts.
“He is a wholehearted player and it’s a strange thing,” added the 62-year-old.
“He maybe didn’t realise he was doing anything wrong. He had an account so he wasn’t trying to hide it. But he shouldn’t have done it, and he’ll have to pay the consequences, whatever they are. Will it stick with him? We’ll just have to see how this all pans out.
“But I don’t think it will have helped his career at all, will it?”
Administration-hit Hearts will attempt to trim more off their 15-point penalty when they welcome Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen tomorrow.
Four points collected from a win over Hibs and last Friday’s draw at Partick have ensured that Gary Locke’s side are making inroads at the basement.
McInnes’ arrival at Pittodrie this summer has triggered a rise in the Dons fans’ expectations, particularly after amassing six points from three matches.
Like former St Johnstone manager McInnes, who was sacked at Bristol City in January, Brown has encountered difficult times south of the border during his stint with Jefferies at Bradford City.
“I see the similarities between Jim and myself,” added Brown.
“We went to England and were in the Premiership down there which was a great experience.
“You learn such a lot, it’s a different game in England and you play different types of teams all over the country.
“The league they were in, the Championship, is probably one of the hardest leagues in Europe. They started really well when Derek went there, then things went against him.
“We went down there and got relegated from the Premiership, I think it’s a great experience to be down there and they will have learned a lot from it.”
Brown reported that striker Dale Carrick picked up an injury in the under-20s defeat to Hamilton in midweek and is regarded as a major doubt for the visit of Aberdeen.