Craig Brown: Scotland in good shape under Steve Clarke

Craig Brown: Scotland in good shape under Steve Clarke
Scotland manager Craig Brown with fans at the World Cup in 1998
Scotland manager Craig Brown with fans at the World Cup in 1998

Now that he has recovered from “bouncing about” the house watching Scotland’s dramatic play-off final win in Serbia, Craig Brown is delighted to give up the mantle of being the last manager to take the men’s team to a major tournament.

The 80-year-old did not expect to wait so long for the drought to end.

But now a place at next summer’s delayed European Championship has been secured, he believes Scotland boss Steve Clarke can look forward with real optimism.

“Steve has managed to get the team together, forget about all the negative stuff, and get them all playing as a unit,” Brown told BBC Scotland.

“There are no sulking substitutes. I watched the attitude of players who are not playing and they are supporters. If they are sent for a warm-up, they warm-up conscientiously. I think it is a great credit to the manager.

“He has got players now who are maturing. The midfield, for example – guys like John McGinn, Callum McGregor and Ryan Jack – are maturing week in, week out.

“He has got a bit of a spark up front with Ryan Christie and he’s got two wingers that weren’t there – James Forrest and Ryan Fraser. Things for Steve are looking up.”

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Brown was 57 when his team left the field in Saint-Etienne as Scotland last departed the major tournament stage following a 3-0 defeat by Morocco at the 1998 World Cup in France.

“It was a bit embarrassing at times to say: ‘He’s the last man to do this.’ I’d rather it be said: ‘He’s been at five tournaments with Scotland,'” he said.

“We have only ever been to two European Championships. I was lucky. I was assistant at one in Sweden in 1992 and I was the manager in 1996. So it’s now a delight to get back to another one.”

Like so many fans up and down the country, Brown thoroughly enjoyed Thursday’s shootout victory in Belgrade and he anticipates more thrills when Scotland take on the Czech Republic, Croatia and England next June.

“I watched it at home with my family and I was bouncing about, to be honest,” he said.

“What the team showed was real mental strength. They showed a fortitude which was terrific. You could see they were determined not to give in.

“I am so looking forward to this forthcoming tournament. I hope spectators are permitted and I hope I get a ticket for Wembley [against England] in particular. I can’t wait to see that game, and the other two at Hampden.”

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