Craig Brown

9th March 2012 at 00:00
The football manager and former headteacher recalls two early influences who helped him to push forward

My schooldays were very happy, but they're a bit of a blur. Hamilton Academy is no longer around, but it was seen as one of the best schools in the area, if not the whole of the west of Scotland, up with Hutchesons' Grammar in Glasgow. I was school captain, which was quite prestigious, although I was most interested in the extra-curricular side of things - to the detriment of academic pursuits.

Two teachers stand out. Bob Roan, at St John's Primary, took football and taught me to swim, and I'm forever grateful for that. He was gentlemanly, not an authoritarian type, but you were still pushed into the pool and told to get to the side.

Eddie Young was an English teacher at Hamilton Academy. He had an aura about him. He was a rugby player: physically imposing, powerfully built, and with a deep voice. The discipline was great: strong but fair. He used the strap occasionally - there was a resonating echo through the school - but he was caring, interested in everyone's welfare.

There were some teachers who would stay on and finish a cigarette before they went to the classroom, but Eddie was always first there. You had to look him in the eye as you went in - if you didn't, you went back to the end. I never met Eddie again, but I don't think he would have been too outwardly impressed by what I went on to do - that wasn't his style.

I trained to become a teacher at Jordanhill after I left school. I didn't have any problem getting a response from the youngsters. There are things common to being a good teacher and football manager - I've heard people saying a football team is like a P7 class - such as treating people with respect but firmness.

PE teachers were the only ones without a degree and seen by others as "ignorant acrobats", so I did a degree with the Open University. I played alongside other teachers: Alan Cousin at Dundee taught classics at Alloa Academy; Terry Christie became headteacher at Musselburgh Grammar.

There's a perception that footballers are overpaid and ungrateful. It annoys me when people depict them as thick. There's this idea that you're dealing with spoilt millionaires - actually, the wealthier the footballer, the easier he is to deal with. They have had to show great discipline to get where they are. These young guys who quickly reach the top and get carried away with it will not last. I read a lot of sports biographies, and you find that successful people in sport tend to be honest and straightforward, not flash Harrys.

One of our players at Aberdeen, Mark Reynolds, got five As at Higher and could have gone on to do maths or medicine at university; instead, he chose to be a footballer, for now at least. People like Alex Ferguson and Billy McNeill stayed on at school until they were 18, and their thoughtfulness has been a big part in their success. Alex has catholic tastes - he can talk at length about any subject - you'll never beat him in a quiz. When we played together at Falkirk he was the shop steward - very articulate, intelligent, and always the one to speak on behalf of the players.

You can draw a direct line back from my football management to my schooldays. The standards you set are the standards you get - that's something I've taken right through my career. There are things you must do and things you mustn't do; our team doesn't win every game, but they're the smartest-turned-out in the league. If the Scotland teams I managed were seen as well organised, that's another thing that you can trace back to school.

I was a teacher for 22 years, but I don't regret the path I eventually took. With teaching and football, my hobby was my work.

Craig Brown talked to Henry Hepburn


Born: Hamilton, 1940

Education: Troon Primary and St John's Primary, Hamilton; Hamilton Academy; teacher training at Jordanhill College, Glasgow; English and geography degree with the Open University

Career: Professional footballer with Dundee and Falkirk; PE teacher, primary headteacher, and lecturer in primary education at Craigie College in Ayr; Scotland assistant manager 1986-1993, manager 1993-2001; also spells as manager of Clyde, Preston North End, Motherwell and - since December 2010 - Aberdeen.

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