The fact is undeniably even as it requires a double-take to square the suited and booted individual, with hair slicked and styled in a schoolboy-esque side parting, with the buzzcutted battler who snarled his way to 23 honours with Celtic and Hibs. “I grew my hair so I don’t look as wild as I usually do. It’s small things,” he said of his “fresh start away from Scotland” to take the plunge in the management game.
It appears a gamble. A major one. But Brown has the best possible backers as he seeks to make the transition with a club that only retained their English League One status on goal difference under interim manager Stephen Crainey – a former Celtic team-mate he says he will lean on heavily – as he and his former Hibs confrere and lifelong friend from his early career days at Easter Road Steven Whittaker, now his professional assistant as well as his personal buddy, seek to navigate the choppy waters of the management game. Brown made friends to influence people in his 14 years with Celtic hoovering up honours before an awkward last season at Aberdeen that didn’t work out under old pal from his early football life on Leith, Stephen Glass. Certain Celtic stewards of his successes at that club will be leaned on now.
“I am an inexperienced manager, but at the same time I’ve learned from these great managers and been involved in dressing rooms, I’ve run dressing rooms,” Brown said. “I’ve been a coach at Aberdeen as well, so there’s that experience I have that will help me out there. Hopefully, as I said, I’ve got managers out there I can pick the phone up to and ask for a favour or two, or try to get a player from as well. To have those relationships with clubs and managers as well, it’s good that I’ve kept those doors open.
“[They all said] win games! Otherwise you won’t be a manager. They have all texted me to say ‘welcome to the crazy gang now’. I spoke to Lenny [Neil Lennon], I spoke to Brendan [Rodgers] and I spoke to Gordon [Strachan]. For me, over the years, they have been vital for me.
“Gordon was the one that signed me [for Celtic] as a young, wild 20-year-old, and he nurtured me into a centre midfielder and taught me how to play well and with a bit of discipline. I had Lenny who was fantastic with me. He made me captain, and kept me club captain as well [in 2010], and for me to learn from Neil who himself was captain of Celtic. His desire to win was exceptional. I had Brendan later on in my career when I was 30, and he pushed me to a different level as well. To take different bits from every manager, I’m lucky enough to have the career that I did and those managers that I did as well. They put a lot of time and focus on me, and I can’t thank them enough for that. But now I’m always going to ask for little favours as well, so they’re stuck with me.”
Fleetwood were once managed by Joey Barton, who Brown clashed with when he was a Rangers player. "Joey did a great job here and there are a lot of nice people who say a lot of nice things about him down here,” added Brown. "He did well for the club.”
Brown will hope to do the same.