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Jock Brown - General Manager of Celtic (June 1997-Nov 1998)Jock Brown was appointed General Manager of Celtic Football Club on 23rd June 1997. Following a season with no trophies won in 1996-97, it became the conviction of Fergus McCann and the plc Board of the Club that a continental model for the club should be adapted and three new positions made:- General Manager, Head Coach and Head of Youth Development. McCann outlined five areas which would come under the general manager's brief: performance, personnel, budgeting, staffing and recruitment/development. As well as the head coach, he would choose a chief scout, reserve coach and head of youth development. He would conduct transfer negotiations and adopt most of the media duties. It was felt that a background or fluency in law was necessary to undertake the position.
Another reason was that following the generally the often fraught relationship between Fergus McCann and Tommy Burns, a middle man was required to relieve the tension operationally.
The head coach would pick the first team, take training, decide tactics and motivate players. He would also identify necessary squad improvements and consult with general manager and chief scout over who to buy.
Willy McStay was offered the Head of Youth Development.
Brown, the brother of Craig Brown (then the Scotland manager), had established a successful career in broadcasting, after training to be a lawyer at Cambridge University. He briefly worked in football legislation as secretary to the Scottish Football League in the 60's before entering the media first in print with the Sunday Post and Herald before swapping to radio, but he was known to the general public principally as a commentator, first with STV in the 80's before switching to the BBC in the 90's. He still continued to practise law throughout his time in the media and was a partner with Glasgow solicitors Harper Macleod as a sports law consultant. He represented his pals on the Scottish football scene, including Tommy McLean and Iain Munro, but as a lawyer rather than agent. There was no suggestion of any conflict of interest.
His appointment was met with a degree of shock by the Celtic fans. He was seen through his commentary and associations as a 'Rangers-loving' man and someone who knew little about football. His first tasks were to sort out the debacles of Di Canio and Cadete - this won him few friends among the support. It did not help that he was there to oversee on behalf of Fergus McCann, the Board and the shareholders the establishment of a completely new structure at the club. He appointed the first foreign head coach in Wim Jansen and almost immediately began to fall out with him. Jansen would say one thing and Jock Brown would say another. Though Jansen and Davie Hay identified the new players wanted by the club, it was Jock Brown's job to get them to the club with a contract that was beneficial to Celtic and acceptable to all parties. This caused delays crucially at the start of the season, which had already been slow to start due to the delay in Jansen's appointment. The Dutchman soon lost patience with the lawyer.
Within five months he had lost the greater part of the optimistic "let's-wait-and-see" factor from a good proportion of the Celtic faithful. Crucial events contributed to this; the sacking of Danny Crainie and David Hay - both long term employees and Celtic to the core - the delay in signing Lambert and the statements from Lambert himself to the press, his apparent ability to be in most photographs whilst at the same time being less-than-fulsome with the truth at public briefings, which were by and large the main way that most fans learned about the happenings at club they loved. Infamously, Di Canio was "traded" to Sheffield Wednesday, after repeated declarations that he would not be sold.
How much he was to blame for these events was and still is debatable. In a sense he was hoisted on his own petard having taken a position which required a range of talents that it would have been nigh on impossible to fulfil 100%. In the week following the UEFA Cup exit to FC Zurich, events for Jock Brown at Celtic could be said to have reached the point of no return. He had sued the newspapers and been counter-sued by them; on his return to Scotland from Zurich he was long and loudly barracked by supporters (nothing new - this had been happening since the beginning of the 98/99 season) but he now needed police protection to get away from Prestwick airport. During the course of a regular meeting with Fergus McCann he discussed whether it might be the time to leave the club. Just prior to the home game on Saturday 7th November against Dundee he announced his resignation. That afternoon produced a 6-1 victory for the bhoys and delight all round with the demise of the General Manager.
Many in the general support were happy to see him go. A few looked behind the general delight to see that a lot of the fall-out was actually Press inspired. Brown refused to pander to and play the game to and for the Press. As such they set out to attack him almost from day one. But then, Jock never helped himself with the fans either and the fans gained most of the news from the Press. Finally he has to be seen as an appointment by Fergus McCann to do what McCann felt was right for the club and to be McCann's instrument. He left the club in good faith by his own decision and without much of the rancour, furore, demands for payoffs (he did receive a contract termination payment, though) and tales-to-the-press episodes that had marked the other immediate departures from the club.
Post-CelticFollowing leaving Celtic, Jock Brown found a niche in becoming a match commentator again, and to the chagrin of much of the Celtic support many thought he held a grudge against the club which too often came out in the match commentaries.
In July 2000 an incredulous Brown was caught speeding after doing 40 in 30 zone. Rather than take a ticket he escalated the case to Ayr District Court and represented himself in what he called, apparently seriously: "a fundamental issue of British justice." He lost. [BBC]
In May 2002 he was linked to a hostile takeover of financially-stricken Hamilton Accies. [BBC] He reportedly became Chairman of Dundee in August 2010 - though the move actually fell through after talks.
Notably, time usually heals wounds and Jock Brown was invited to add an interview for the Celtic History DVD. An exceptional work by the club Jock Brown's interview turned out to be amongst the highlights of the whole DVD set and probably the most spoken about point. In his interview he seems to swim in his own vanity and tries to convince the view of his importance at the club at the time before rolling out a list of achievements he was involved in on bringing players to the club. It was very cringing but funny nonetheless, and any goodwill towards him has been replaced with some mirth.
- 'Joke Brown' Daily Record article, 23/6/97
- Radio Scotland interview 1997
- Brown Quits Parkhead
- Excerpts from Jock Brown's book, "Celtic-Minded: 510 Days in Paradise", serialised in Scotland on Sunday, April 1999.
Quotes"I had a problem early on at the Darren Jackson signing. He told the press that I saw videos of Jackson, but I never saw them."
Wim Jansen on Jock Brown 1998
"I couldn't understand his behaviour over Brattbakk. He told us when he came here that he didn't trust videos. But the first excuse for not going to see him (Brattbakk) was that he was going to see Manchester United against Feyenoord, which I believe was a social event. I said I could fix him up to go to Trondheim for the next Champions League fixture in which Brattbakk would be involved. He said he didn't want to miss training. We could have hired him a private jet to take him over at three o'clock and straight back so that no training would be missed but he would not go."
Jock Brown on Wim Jansen - May 1998
I found out his age. I ascertained what salary he would require. I found out what transfer fee would be involved. I found out all the figures required. I then said to Wim, "Let's go and look at this guy and see what you think, see if he's still got it." Wim wasn't interested in anything like that, he just wanted Riedle signed.
Jock Brown's response - May 1998
"There is no-one in football I have ever found it more difficult to work with. "
Wim Jansen on Jock Brown - May 1998
"He has no right whatsoever to form a view of me except from the direct dealings we have had. He never ever wanted to find out anything about me and has no right to have an opinion on what I am like and what I do. "
Jock Brown's response - May 1998
“The job description I had was wrongs. Fergus McCann was adamant that the general manager, football, was the media link and he wanted to restrict the head coach to pre and post-match interviews. I said, ‘[the media] don’t want to speak to the guy who is not picking the team’, and he wouldn’t have that. It was almost a breaking point beforehand, [but] I believed I could persuade him in situ, which I failed to do. It was [eventually] impossible to continue doing the job. I regret that, because I had amassed all this knowledge and experience and if I’d been given the opportunity to quietly apply that I could have continued to make a contribution."Jock Brown - Oct 2010 (The Herald, Link)
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