Football: Cautious Brown Must Give Youth Its Chance ; Phil Gordon Believes the Scotland Manager Has Won the Battle for Respect

Article excerpt

CRAIG BROWN has been around long enough to recall that old adage about a week being a long time in politics. When Harold Wilson was claiming what a capricious business he was working in, Brown was discovering an equally harsh truth of his own in the mid-1960s as he went, via a broken leg, from being part of a Dundee side who won the Scottish League title to a mere bit part at Falkirk.

However, even Brown must have been taken aback at the speed of the ever- changing world last week. In the era of the quick sound- bite and influence of the electronic media, a day now seems a long time in football. How else is the Scotland manager to judge the rollercoaster events of the past week? Brown has watched his status plummet and rise again: from being in the stocks (after that 2-0 defeat at Hampden) to rising stock (thanks to 90 minutes at Wembley).

While the Scotland manager has not quite suffered a savaging on the scale of his England counterparts, there is no doubt familiarity has bred contempt. The Scottish tabloids had decided, by half-time last Saturday, that those two goals by Paul Scholes were enough to call a halt to Brown's six years in the job.

Wembley, of course, forced a few people to eat humble pie, though the Daily Record, Brown's fiercest critic, is not giving up the fight, even though its own opinion polls prove Harold Wilson might have revised his thoughts about what a tough job he had, if he too had been prisoner to the dreaded phone-in. The Daily Record poll after the first-leg defeat saw 83 per cent say that Brown should quit, with only 17 per cent defending him. On Friday, the swing back to the Scotland manager would have left Peter Snow apoplectic: only 55 per cent now wanted Brown out, while 45 per cent said he should stay.

"There are statistics, statistics and damn lies," Brown said quietly last Monday as he tried to withstand the welter of calls for him to quit. He was not referring to the phone-in vote, although he laughed that off too. ("Seventeen per cent is quite good because the same paper had a poll when I took the Scotland job and only eight per cent wanted me.")

What he meant when he tried to use statistics to back up his case was that he was often scornfully put down as a coaching "anorak". However, there was no disguising the hurt the avuncular man felt as he cast his eyes over the Monday morning headlines at the Scotland hotel in Troon. ("You're a nice guy, Craig, but nice guys finish second!" said The Sun.) Brown was smarting by the time he conducted his press conference. …