THERE’S no such thing as a quick blether with Craig Brown. The jovial, genial and loquacious former Scotland manager doesn’t need to be persuaded to delve into the archives and guddle around for a variety of meandering anecdotes and wandering reminiscences that often turn a press briefing into something resembling a chortling Ronnie Corbett monologue.

The phrase “don’t use this in the paper but . . .” gets trotted out in wild abundance as the sprightly 77-year-old embarks on another colourful tale from the footballing frontlines of yore. It’s perhaps not surprising that Brown is an ambassador of the Football Memories project, that wonderful initiative which utilises memorabilia, imagery and the spoken word to stimulate the senses of those suffering from the withering cruelty of dementia.

Since Brown let go of the managerial reins at Hampden back in 2001, there’s been precious little to smile about for those of a Scottish persuasion. Many have tried to galvanise the national team but, having been absent from a major championship for 20 years now, Scotland have slithered so far into the wilderness they’ll soon be appearing on an Attenborough documentary exploring some of the world’s most remote species.

It’s a tough old environment to exist in but, in Alex McLeish, Scotland have a tough old character. Of course, his return to the Scotland job has been greeted with mixed responses. For Brown, though, the decision to go back was greeted with great enthusiasm as the nation strives to move forward.

Experience, expertise, respect, renown? As far as Brown is concerned, McLeish has it all.

“I have never known a player that has played under him who has said ‘that big b*****d,” said Brown with a smile. “The players will love him.”

Of course, McLeish still has some wooing to do. Even if Big Eck put on a free bar in the Montford House pub prior to the match with Costa Rica at Hampden later this month, there would still be some muttering from those cynical critics of the Tartan Army who refuse to forgive him for walking away from the Scotland job for the cut-and-thrust of the English Premier League with Birmingham City.

Brown, meanwhile, has no such reservations.

“I am an out and out Alex fan and he would bust a gut for the national side,” he said.

“He came up for every corner yet never scored for Scotland and I used to wind him about that. Alex’s great line in response, though, was that he was always the decoy for Kenny Dalglish. He has a brilliant sense of humour and is the nicest big guy you will ever hope to meet.”

In more prosperous years for the national team, McLeish, all red hair and as tough as a Clydeside rivet, embodied that sense of Scotland the brave. His commitment to the Scottish cause was underlined when he was dropped from a European Championship qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in 1987. He took that on the chin and accepted Brown’s offer to turn out for the under-21s instead as an over-age player.

For Brown, that attention to duty over 30 years ago should be held up to those doubters who continue to question McLeish’s devotion to the Scotland cause.

“We had dropped him from the senior team after he had earned 45 caps,” recalled Brown, who was working alongside the then

Scotland manager, Andy Roxburgh.

“I told him I was going to get Alex to play for the under-21s and he said that would be insulting to the guy.

Andy distanced himself from it because he felt embarrassed that we had dropped him.

“Alex wasn’t a problem, however, and he instantly said ‘yes’. He was brilliant to the point that we had to bring him back into the national team.

“He was so inspirational and so committed in the under-21s.

“He could have easily told me to f**k off and said, ‘I’ve got 45 caps and closing in on the Hall of Fame yet you’ve dumped me in the under-21s’.

“But he was the very opposite. In Alex we have got as good as we can get as Scotland manager.”

Meanwhile, Brown believes Jose Mourinho will have had more of an influence on Scott McTominay’s decision to represent Scotland than former national manager and Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson.

“I read that Sir Alex Ferguson was influential in McTominay’s decision,” said Brown.

“However the most influential guy will have been Jose Mourinho.

“Mourinho has a great affection for Scotland. He did his coaching badges at Largs and he loved it in Scotland.

“When he started at Chelsea I was at Derby and I met him at a reserve game at Brentford. He was the manager of Chelsea and there he was in the hamburger queue.

“I was watching the game with the Derby reserve team and I was talking to him. I said to him, ‘do you think you can just come to England and beat Alex Ferguson?’.

“And Mourinho replied, ‘no chance, it’s not him or the Scottish I want to beat it is the English’. If the boy McTominay had said to Mourinho ‘Scotland or England?’ I think Mourinho would have steered him down the Scotland route as he is so well disposed to Scotland. I believe Mourinho would be very supportive of him playing for Scotland.

“It is a massive coup for Alex,” added Brown.

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