Despite the retirement of someone he describes as “The Godfather”, Craig Brown has pointed to Sheffield United’s decision to turn to David Weir as being evidence that Scottish managers still rule the roost.
And Brown has also called on the controversial Kilmarnock owner Michael Johnston to consider a Scottish manager to fill the vacancy left by Kenny Shields’ departure earlier this week. Although he is based in Ayrshire himself and has a Kilmarnock-mad grandson, the 72 year-old – now a director at Aberdeen – has ruled himself out of a return to the dug-out with the Rugby Park club. However, he yesterday put forward the case for the likes of Colin Cameron, Allan Johnston and Paul Hartley, young Scottish managers making their way in the game, as both Sir Alex Ferguson and Brown once did, at East Stirlingshire and Clyde respectively.
Brown was saddened by the departure of Steve Lomas from St Johnstone, as well as Shiels. However, with Lomas’ former assistant and fellow Northern Irishman Tommy Wright having succeeded him at McDiardmid Park, Brown is anxious to see a Scot take over at Rugby Park. He admits to feeling a pang of guilt on hearing that Shiels had been sacked, for, among other perceived failings, he was unable to stop Kilmarnock from being pipped for a top-six place by Dundee United after a last-minute win against Aberdeen, in Brown’s last match in charge before making way for Derek McInnes.
Speaking as he joined 500 school children from across Glasgow for the Tesco Bank Football Challenge Festival at Toryglen Regional Football Centre in Glasgow, Brown said: “If we hadn’t conceded a goal [against Dundee United], they’d have been in the top six.
“I sent [Russell] Anderson up the park at 0-0 with ten minutes to go. Of course, there was a huge gap at the back, and they got a throw in, and scored. That put Kilmarnock out of the top six. It’s as fine a line as that. If we had kept Russell Anderson at centre-half and decided 0-0 at Tannadice will do us. But we went for the win, and it cost Kilmarnock a place in the top six.”
“I get on well with Kenny,” he added. “I also like to think I get on with the chairman as well, perhaps I should not admit to that! I have sent a text to Kenny privately.”
Brown received a close-up view of both Shiels’ and Lomas’ coaching credentials when he was asked to participate in the coaching courses run by the Irish Football Association. “Although I like the two guys,and they have managed their teams well, I would rather see Scottish managers manage those teams – like at Aberdeen,” he said. “If all else is equal, we have the best managers on the planet,” he added. “No disrespect to the Irish, because I was one of the coaches who instructed on the [Pro] License courses in Ireland – and I have said repeatedly that one of the best guys on the course by a long way was Neil Lennon.”
However, Brown, who is synonymous with the Scottish centre of coaching excellence at Largs, is keener to promote Scottish coaches, who he maintains are still the best in the world, despite Ferguson’s decision to call time on his career.
Brown nominated Queen of the South manager Allan Johnston, who he capped as a winger for Scotland, as one to watch. “I like Johnston,” he said. “I think players are the least reliable when you are talking about a manager – it depends whether they are getting a game or not. But I said to Derek Young when he was training with us [at Aberdeen] and playing down at Queen of the South. I asked him: ‘how’s the manager?’ He told me he was brilliant.
“I know Paul Hartley well, obviously,” added Brown, who, like the Alloa Athletic manager, is from Hamilton. “He had a touch at someone recently didn’t he? I texted him after he punched Ray McKinnon at Brechin, and he missed. I said: ‘when a man fae Hamilton throws a punch, the opponent usually hits the deck!’”
As for Weir, who signed a three-year contract as manager at Sheffield United on Monday, Brown described him as “outstanding”. He added: “You will not get a better equipped guy. I remember when he was the Rangers captain at Pittodrie and he always escorted the referee off at half-time. I said to the referee: ‘can you not get of the park without an escort?’ But that was big Davie, he would be politely questioning him about decisions. By the time they got to the tunnel Davie will have given him an analysis of his first-half performance! But he would never swear or anything like that, he is very clever. I think he is the man, and hopefully he will be successful down there, like Malky Mackay, who is the shining light at the moment.
“The Scottish boys are still running the show even though ‘The Godfather’ has retired,” Brown added.
Asked whether he had been in touch with Ferguson since the end of the season, Brown said he had – and revealed the former Manchester United manager, like the protagonist in the Deacon Blue song Dignity, is to sail up the west coast, through villages and towns, in his own “dinghy” full of family members.
“He is looking forward to the holiday of a lifetime,” said Brown.
“I asked him: ‘what are you doing with yourself?’
“And he said: ‘we are having a few days in New York, a couple of days in France, and then we are going on a cruise. I have been desperate to do this cruise. It’s the trip of a lifetime’.
“‘Where are you going?’ I asked him. I am thinking he’s going to say the Caribbean, or someplace like that. “He says ‘no, no we start in Oban – the whole family, grandchildren, the lot – and then we go to Iona, I have been desperate to get to Iona, and then South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist’. His holiday of a lifetime is a Scottish cruise.”
As for Brown, except for a family holiday in Tenerife, he is as active as ever, and is relishing a new season – looking on from the directors’ box, rather than the dugout – at Aberdeen.