HE MAY continue to rub some people up the wrong way, but few could claim John Brown has been anything other than a colourful addition to the Scottish football scene.
After becoming the first Dundee manager since Jim Duffy – in January 2004 – to be awarded the Scottish Premier League Clydesdale Bank manager of the month award, Brown has been placed in unusual, possibly unique circumstances.
He is surely the first newly-named manager of the month to face the prospect of seeing his side relegated three days later. However, the extent to which Dundee have improved since Brown replaced Barry Smith in February means there was really no other choice when it came to identifying candidates for the award.
If the SPL season had started on the day that Brown took over, then Dundee would currently be sitting second in the league table, just behind
Motherwell. Indeed, the Fir Park side are the only team to have beaten Dundee in their last eight league games. On the back of three successive victories, Brown has managed to resuscitate Dundee’s chances of avoiding relegation, and at the same time has calmed the ire of those supporters who were unprepared to accept the manner of Smith’s sacking, as well as Brown’s own appointment.
This being football, the righteous anger has subsided as quickly as it has taken to get some more points on the board. When Brown arrived, Dundee had only 14 points. Now they sit on the 29-point mark and the pressure has been transferred to Paisley. St Mirren may well collect the draw that will all
but confirm their top league status this weekend against Hearts, but Brown is continuing to enjoy maximising their discomfort.
“100 per cent they’ve switched off,” he says of Danny Lennon’s team, which have still to record a win since defeating the Tynecastle side to lift the League Cup in March. “And it’s very difficult to pick that back up.
“Plus, they’re playing a team who had their faces rubbed in it in the cup final. I know Gary Locke. He did his cruciate in the 1996 cup final, which was my last game for Rangers.
“He’s a great lad, he loves Hearts and St Mirren will find it tough at Tynecastle. They’ll need to have their A game. If they don’t, it could be another week.”
Although Dundee do not play until Sunday, when they meet Aberdeen at Dens, Brown will not be present at Tynecastle to see whether his side’s SPL flame has been allowed to flicker on.
“No, we’ve not got to play them again so I don’t need to go through that,” he says, then adds: “I’ve got a nice DVD to watch. It’s Titanic.
“And I can see Stevie Thompson at the front of the boat…”
He is enjoying himself now, that’s clear. Perhaps this wasn’t the case several weeks ago, when his appointment stirred up a hornets’ nest of opinion, and led to some extreme comments being posted on social media sites.
“I have two daughters who don’t need to put up with any sh*t that is up on Facebook, things like that,” he says. “But there are no bruises on me.”
Even on mainstream broadcast programmes, Brown recalls people having a “field day”. He says he was taken aback by some of what was said about him, by fellow professionals particularly.
“They were guys who I had no time for as a player, and I have no time for them now,” says Brown. “It is not going to change.
“There are one or two who are jealous.”
Certainly, few could have predicted just how great the impact has been since the night Brown first strode down the Dens Park touchline, to a mixed reception. Dundee earned a point with a last-minute equaliser against
St Johnstone. While he could never be described as shy, the manager has grown ever more comfortable in the role.
Asked what he might have thought six months ago had someone told him he would be picking up a manager of the month award in the Premier League for April, Brown pauses for a moment, then replies: “I’d have been saying why has it taken this long? That’s my answer.”
There is a bit of swagger about him now, and even in the battle with legendary Dundee goalkeeper Robert Douglas, Brown appears to have come out on top. Douglas won’t play for Dundee again since the manager was handed a two-year permanent deal last month. He is relishing further strengthening his ties with Dundee, at the same time diluting those he has previously held with a certain other club.
“I may remind you that the team I had the best goal-scoring record against was Rangers,” he points out.
Now that he has established his authority, Brown is relishing the opportunity to speak with the credibility he lacked on such instances as that infamous rant on the steps of Ibrox last year. He is now more concerned about the abuse of Dundee as a club than with attacks on himself, and criticised a succession of owners for the financial dire straits, going back two decades at least.
“It has been disgusting,” he says. “I go back to the Italians, and the money they spent – how the hell could they afford what they were doing on the back of crowds of 5,600? Well, the answer is they could not afford it.
“It’s a bit like Hearts’ cup final when they beat Hibs, and they had boys on eight or ten grand, they could not afford that. Is that them cheating to win a cup final?
“Look at the state they are in, they could be going into administration themselves. The responsibility is on the owners for the management of the clubs, whether that’s Dunfermline or, in the past, Dundee, or what’s happened at Rangers, too.”
It’s now possible to nod sagely at such comments, rather than dismiss them instantly. Brown’s recovery after being ridiculed so widely last summer has been remarkable.
And where would Dundee be had Brown been recruited earlier? Not staring into the First Division abyss, claims the manager of the month. “If you look at the stats from the eight games, then you can work out the arithmetic,” says Brown. And on this occasion, the sums stack up.