When it came to choosing someone to publicise their latest venture, the producers of BBC Alba’s documentary Tartan Pride, a film which charts the history of the Scotland v England fixture, Craig Brown was the obvious candidate.
The last man to take the national team to the finals of a major tournament (France 98), Brown is a patriotic Scot who relished the challenge of facing the Auld Enemy.
He is also the last Scotland manager to have won at Wembley – albeit that 1-0 victory in 1999 failed to overturn the 2-0 lead England had established at Hampden in the first leg of a Euro 2000 play-off.
However, even he was taken aback by the fervour displayed by the late Tommy Burns when the Celtic midfielder – and future Scotland coach – made his only appearance in international football’s oldest fixture.
“I remember when we played England at Wembley in 1988,” said Brown. “Andy Roxburgh was the manager and Tommy was on the bench.
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“We were losing 1-0 to a Peter Beardsley goal and Andy turned to me and said: ‘Tell Tommy he’s going on.’ So I said to Tommy that he’d be going on and asked him to go and warm up and when he came back I couldn’t believe how excited he was.
“He put his two hands on Andy’s shoulders and said: ‘Thanks very much. You’ve helped me fulfil a lifetime’s ambition to play against England at Wembley’. Tommy is the only player I’ve ever seen in tears before he was about to go on. He was really emotional about it and when he went on he was brilliant for the 18 minutes or so that was left. In fact, he was so good that we were left wondering why we hadn’t used him from the start. Playing for Scotland that day clearly meant so much to him.”
Appearances can be deceptive, of course. When Ally McCoist scored the only goal for Scotland against Switzerland at Euro 96, he celebrated his strike by rushing to the touchline and hugging Brown.
However, Brown pointed out: “The press boys asked him afterwards why he’d run and jumped on me.
“He said: ‘I didn’t jump to hug him – I ran to ask him why I wasn’t on from the start in the other games! He’ll maybe find it hard to have some humour today but he’s always got a line, Ally.”
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