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Craig Brown feels national team’s involvement at Euro 2020 can be Scottish football’s biggest boost for several years

Craig Brown.
Craig Brown.

Former Scotland manager Craig Brown believes the national team’s involvement at Euro 2020 will provide Scottish football with its biggest participation boost for several years.

Steve Clarke led Scotland to their first major finals for 23 years, since Brown took the national team to the 1998 World Cup in France.

The Scots were unable to progress beyond the group stage, claiming a point against England at Wembley but losing to Czech Republic and Croatia at Hampden Park.

Brown has observed a number of initiatives set up by the Scottish FA in recent years with a view to improving the development of the game, but he feels the national team’s presence at a major stage will be the strongest factor of all.

Craig Brown watches Scotland’s opening match of the 1998 World Cup against Brazil.

Brown said: “Probably the best lecture I heard in sport was from Geoff Cooke, who was the English rugby coach and the Lions coach at one point.

“It was about 20 years ago and I never forgot it, because he said you can spend all the money you like and all the hours talking about the development of sport, but the interest depends on the performance of the national team.

“We have had this in Scotland with all the various initiatives to try and promote football, with the Henry McLeish support and Project Brave.

“If the national team does well though, you can save a fortune in the promotion of the game. The sales of replica strips, the commercial spin off and general uptake and interest in the sport depends on the success of the national team.

“Steve Clarke has promoted the game indirectly at no additional cost. A lot of these initiatives wouldn’t have been necessary if the national team had been playing in tournaments.

“Steve has got the ball rolling with our participation in these tournaments, and hopefully we will qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.”

Steve Clarke

Despite Scotland’s failure to progress to the last-16, Brown has been impressed by the job done by Clarke in reaching a tournament which has drastically changed since his stint in charge of the national side between 1993 and 2001.

Brown added: “People were saying it would have been the first time we would have qualified for the matchplay stages of the tournament.

“That is true, but the format now is completely different to allow 24 teams to get to the finals. In my opinion that is all about money, with every game televised.

“When I was assistant to Andy Roxburgh when we qualified in Sweden in 1992, we were in the last eight.

“I had the team in 1996 when we were in England, and only 16 qualified.

“This time we got to the last 24, but we just narrowly failed to get to the last 16.

“I still think the Scottish team has been very successful under Steve. He has done a good job.”

Former Aberdeen boss Brown feels the performance of a number of Scotland’s players at the Euros has convinced him the future is bright for the national team, adding: “I have felt sorry for the likes of Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan and a number of managers since me, because I felt the calibre of player I had was better.

“I had three players from the champion team of England – Colin Hendry, Billy McKinlay and Kevin Gallacher at Blackburn Rovers. We had Paul Lambert in the champion team of Europe at Borussia Dortmund.

“When Aberdeen played Rangers on the last day of the season, I looked at the Rangers team and apart from the goalkeeper who was retired there was not one player eligible for the Scottish team.

“Ryan Jack was injured and young Nathan Patterson didn’t start the game. If that’s the champion team in Scotland, as they were by so many points, it makes it difficult for Steve Clarke to pick a top class team.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson.
Scotland captain Andy Robertson.

“In this competition four or five has emerged as top class though, like Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney. We knew about them but they have confirmed their excellence at international level.

“We have others who are emerging as very capable at international level, such as Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour.”

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