A Heartfelt Tribute to Scotland Legend and SFSA Supporter Craig Brown, by Ben Ramage

Date: 26th June 2023



The first time I interviewed Craig Brown, I’ll be honest enough to say I was a nervous wreck.

Fresh out of university, I’d graduated with a journalism degree but I hadn’t interviewed anyone who’d had such a significant impact on Scottish football as the last man to take his country to the World Cup.

That famous 1998 tournament opener against Brazil, when the eyes of the world were on our wee nation, remains one of my earliest memories of the beautiful game.

I vividly remember watching with dread as John Collins lined up that penalty, thinking how terrible it would be if he’d missed. What followed was one of the best celebrations of my life with my dad and brother, a moment that likely led me to love this game so much and even work hard to make a career out of it.

So when I learned I’d be calling him to preview the country’s upcoming clash with England – he remains the last manager to beat the Auld Enemy in a competitive fixture – it was a surreal and nerve-racking moment.

My first fear was that I wouldn’t get enough from him, having been given such a brilliant opportunity. That was quickly allayed as we talked for nearly an hour, with his famous story-telling ability evident from the minute I asked my first question.

The second fear was that he wouldn’t respect me. Given I wasn’t even in the industry at that point – I was working in a bar polishing glasses and mopping floors – that would have been perfectly understandable.

But Brown couldn’t have been more helpful or respectful. By the end of the interview he told me it had been a privilege to speak to me, to stick at the journalism stuff and an opportunity would come along sooner rather than later.

It’s hard to put into words the effect that had on me, coming from someone that I respected so much and that I knew the entire Scottish football family felt the same.

But from the tributes that have poured in since the news of his sad passing, it’s clear that Brown had this powerful effect on everyone he met.

The ability to build people up and to believe in themselves is truly a wonderful skill that few possess. It’s clear to see why his Scotland teams were so strong and so successful. Indeed it wasn’t until he vacated the hot seat that we realised just how successful a national team boss he was.

Only now under Steve Clarke are we starting to believe we have a team strong enough to regularly qualify for major tournaments. Under Brown, that was simply the norm.

When I asked the former Motherwell and Aberdeen boss how badly he wanted to see Scotland qualify for a tournament again back in 2017, his answer was telling: “It hurts me we haven’t qualified in so long. I’m desperate to just be a TA fan and go to a major tournament again.”

At the end of it all, Brown was a fiercely passionate Scotland fan. A long-standing member of the SFSA, he always wanted to see his country succeed for both himself and the supporters.

I’m so glad that he did get to see his country finally return to the big stage back at the last Euros, and have no doubt he’d have loved seeing the resurgence of the national team over the last few years under Steve Clarke.

It would be a truly fitting tribute if the current crop can make it to Germany next year and the World Cup in 2024. Beating England again in September would certainly be welcome too.

Until then, Brown will still hold those places in the history books that his talent, personality and drive ultimately deserve.

And there’s no doubt he’ll hold a place in the hearts of every Tartan Army fan and every person who had the pleasure of meeting him.

Rest in peace, Craig Brown CBE. A Scotland legend forever.

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