Tributes have poured in for Craig Brown, the last man to lead Scotland to a World Cup and one of the most popular characters in Scottish football.
Brown’s family announced the 82-year-old had died in hospital in Ayr following a short illness.
The former schoolteacher took Scotland to a World Cup and a European Championship finals and was involved in a coaching capacity in three other major tournaments. He also led the country’s under-16s to a World Cup final and the under-21s to the last four in Europe.
Brown was combining a career in education with his duties as manager of part-time Clyde when an old friend, Sir Alex Ferguson, changed the course of his life in 1986, and the former Manchester United manager was among those paying tribute to a “thoroughly wonderful man”.
In a statement released by the League Managers Association, Sir Alex added: “Craig and I had been friends since Scotland Schools team in 1957-58, with Craig as captain.
“When I was given the honour of managing Scotland at the World Cup finals in Mexico there was one man I had to take, for all his attributes and knowledge, that was Craig.
“He had a great career as a manager of several clubs but his service for his country stands out. In an industry that questions a man’s capabilities, Craig never wavered in that situation, he always kept his head and his composure. Well done Broon!”
The Glasgow-born footballer’s career was undermined by a knee injury which finished his playing days at the age of 27 but he began his professional spell at Rangers and won a league winners’ medal with Dundee in 1962 before being part of a squad which reached the European Cup semi-finals.
His coaching career hit new levels after his stint at Mexico 86, when he was appointed assistant to new Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh, who he would succeed in 1993, serving for eight years.
Current Scotland manager Steve Clarke said: “Craig led the way in bringing sustained qualification to the men’s national team, first as assistant to Andy Roxburgh and then in his own right.
“He was a student of the game and I am proud to say that I followed in his footsteps by taking a Scotland team back to a major tournament.”
The Scottish Football Association described Brown as a “one-off” in a lengthy tribute, stating he was best remembered for leading Scotland to Euro 96 and the World Cup two years later.
“But to those who had the privilege of his company and his experience during a 60-year association with Scottish football, he was a pioneer and innovator, a teacher and a mentor to generations of players who graduated to coaching and management under his tutelage,” the piece added.
SFA president Mike Mulraney said: “Words cannot do justice to the impact Craig Brown has had on Scottish football and on behalf of the Scottish FA, and his friends and former colleagues at Hampden Park, I send our deepest condolences to his family.
“The greatest tribute that can be paid to his professional capabilities is the respect in which he was held by his peers, who also happened to be our all-time great coaches: among them Jock Stein, Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith, Jim McLean and Andy Roxburgh.
“Craig deserves his place in the pantheon of great coaches. He will be missed – but never forgotten – by those who had the pleasure of his company, or by the fans and players who shared in his successes as Scotland manager.”
Brown went on to manage Preston, Motherwell and Aberdeen, where he became a director in 2013 after his management career ended.
Former Dons chairman Stewart Milne, who hired Brown as manager in 2010, said: “Craig was a very special individual. He always had time for people and if there was any way in which he could help them inevitably he was there with an abundance of support and guidance.
“During our time working together Craig became a close friend. He always had a story or two to tell, and I often became the butt of some of these stories, but he always meant it in a friendly way, I think.
“He will be sadly missed by many, and I feel grateful that he played such an important part in my life.”
Former clubs including Clyde, Preston, Motherwell, Rangers, Dundee, Falkirk and Stranraer also expressed their condolences to Brown’s family, but the majority of clubs throughout Scottish football were quick to pay tribute to a man whose coaching attributes were matched by his human decency.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack said: “He was one of those rare individuals who was not only effective at what he did but universally loved by all who got to know him.”