Football: Mixed Emotions for Brown as He Says Goodbye to SFA; BUT HE IS STILL BACKING BERTI.(Sport)

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Byline: y RAY HEPBURN

FORMER Scotland boss Craig Brown admits that he will have very mixed emotions when he finally clears his desk at Hampden Park later this week.

His eight years in charge with the national team came to an end last October and this week he has been overseeing his final coaching course at Largs.

After a visit to the World Cup in the Far East, Brown, who quit his director of football role last month, will be back at the sharp end with Preston North End.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mirror, the country's most experienced coach reflected on his years in charge and then looked ahead to this summer's World Cup and Scotland's chances of qualifying for Euro 2004.

Perhaps predictably, Brown points to the opening game of the 1998 World Cup as his proudest day with Scotland.

Brown's men pushed world champions Brazil every inch of the way in a cracking game before slipping to an unfortunate 2-1 defeat.

He said: "There have been so many great memories but that day in Paris was magical. The eyes of the whole world were on us.

"Our players wore the kilt in the preliminaries and that was a very proud moment, then of course they went out and played so very well.

"We were up against the greatest nation in the world and played our part in making that opening day a great start to the tournament.

"When John Collins scored from the penalty spot, we really were right in the game and in the end failed by the very narrowest of margins.

Our supporters were at their very best that day and they kept it going throughout the tournament. In fact wherever Scotland have travelled the fans have been marvellous.

As a Scotland coach, Brown's contribution goes much further than the first team of course for he has achievements to savour at every level.

He took the Under 17 team to the final of the European Championships where they lost 1-0 to Saudi Arabia at Hampden and the Under 21's to the semi-final of the World tournament in 1992.

"One of the greatest kicks in this business was watching a kid coming into the international scene as an apprentice and then graduating through every level," he admitted.

"There are countries who prepare their under age sides to win tournaments but that has never been the way I approached that aspect of the job.

These teams exist to learn the players their trade and prepare them one day for taking their place in the Scotland first team."

Brown could not take his stroll down memory lane without recalling the highs and lows of the Euro 96 and the Euro 2000 qualifying play-offs against England. …