Former Dundee midfielder Brown was named as the replacement for Barry Smith, sacked last week, on Saturday. The news provoked a stormy response at a supporters’ meeting with the board at Dens Park that evening and was the subject of derision on radio programmes.
Gardiner sat with Brown in the directors’ box at Celtic Park yesterday while first-team coach Ray Farningham took charge as Dundee lost 5-0 to the champions to remain 15 points adrift at the bottom of the SPL with 11 games remaining. Of Dundee’s five-man board of directors, only one – Maurice Kidd – attended the match. But Gardiner insisted Brown is the right man for the situation Dundee currently find themselves in.
“I listened to two radio stations in the car with John on Saturday and the club were ridiculed for making what was described as a highly unusual appointment,” said Gardiner. “I don’t think it is. I think it is a very prudent appointment by me. We have a situation where we don’t know if we’re going to get relegated into a First Division which does not have any reconstruction, in which case we’ll get £10,000 at the beginning of the season to run a full-time football club. Or we could get relegated and go into a league which has actually been reconstructed, with the difference £450,000 for us. So there is no way I can make an appointment which gives anybody a contract when I don’t know what our income is going to be or what we’re going into.
“I didn’t attend the Q&A meeting, the directors had that with the fans which was probably always going to be difficult when a team is bottom of the league and has parted company with a club legend. What was very difficult for me was listening to what I thought was some disgraceful stuff from ex-pros, from pundits, from so-called experts.
“It showed no respect whatsoever for a man who was loved and outstanding at Dundee. There was no respect for a guy who has done nothing wrong for Dundee and people were openly laughing in studios. I think that is appalling.
“He is stepping in as an interim manager. He’s going to assess the squad for us, which we have to do because most of those players are out of contract at the end of the season because we don’t have players on long-term contracts. John will come in and use his experience to make a difference to us between now and the end of the season.
“We need the fans to give John a chance. John Brown never let Dundee down when he played for the club. He has no intention of doing that now. He didn’t ask to do this. I called him when the situation occurred last week. I needed somebody with some integrity, some respect, someone we could trust.” Brown’s only previous management post saw him suffer relegation while in charge of Clyde but Gardiner said: “I know exactly what his budget was in that second season at Clyde and Jose Mourinho couldn’t have done anything with it. John was highly respected at other football clubs and has won everything there is to win in the Scottish game. He knows what big games are all about. We have a very big cup game against Dundee United next week.”
Farningham also called for Brown to be given a chance, despite his own disappointment at Smith’s departure. “Barry is a close friend of mine and I was obviously gutted for him,” said Farningham. “But it’s not John Brown’s fault. He is coming in to do a job. He came into the dressing room after the game today and spoke highly of the players, especially their first-half performance. He saw a lot of positive things. He didn’t come in before the game. I’ve taken training this week, so he left me to get on with things. I’ve got to emphasise it’s not John’s fault. He will give it 100 per cent and try to get the club moving forward.”
Dundee, who had a Gary Harkins goal disallowed before Celtic took the lead, saw their hopes of recovery collapse when substitute Matt Lockwood was sent off in conceding a penalty early in the second half.