Former St Johnstone manager Bobby Brown has died at the age of 96. Born in Dunipace in March 1923, Bobby was a goalkeeper of some note and he began his career with Queen’s Park, making his debut for the Spiders in 1939.
The war years saw him serve in the Royal Navy with Portsmouth and Plymouth among the clubs he made guest appearances for during the conflict.
A return to Queen’s Park after the war saw him gain his first full Scotland cap in January 1946 in a match against Belgium and to this day he remains both the last amateur player and last Queen’s Park player to gain a full international cap for Scotland. Four further Scotland caps followed.
A move to Rangers followed in that same year and he spent ten memorable years at Ibrox, making 296 appearances for the Light Blues, keeping 109 clean sheets.
The tribute to Mr Brown on his passing from Rangers FC notes that between 10th August 1946 and 16 April 1952 he played in 179 consecutive matches – all this while a part-time player as he juggled his footballing career with that of a schoolmaster!
In May 1956, Bobby moved to Falkirk FC but just two years later a managerial opportunity arose.
In May 1958, the St Johnstone Board of Directors decided that they needed a new approach as they sought to end the club’s long exile from Scotland’s top division.
Manager Johnny Pattillo had come close to succeeding on a few occasions but with finance tight, the Board felt a move to a part-time manager-coach was a better option and from a short-list of four, Bobby Brown was given the opportunity.
Remaining part-time and training the mainly west of Scotland based squad in Glasgow, it wasn’t long before he had achieved his and the club’s aim – promotion to the First Division with Saints going up as Division Two champions in 1960.
Two seasons in the top division followed and when relegation was suffered in 1962, Brown was given the time and opportunity to get the club back up, which he did at the first attempt and again as Division Two champions.
This time, Saints were in Division One to stay, with Brown – who also led us to two League Cup semi-finals during his time in charge – at the helm.
In the years before his eventual departure, it’s fair to say he laid the foundations of a squad which his successor Willie Ormond took to another level in the years that followed.
That departure from Muirton Park came in February 1967 with the club’s Minute Book noting the event as follows: “Before commencing the business of the meeting, Mr Lamond said that on behalf of all the board he wanted to convey to Mr Brown their sincere congratulations on his appointment to the SFA post of team manager for Scotland.”
Brown would manage the international team on 28 occasions but it was that first game in charge which would live long in the memory for all Scots – a 3-2 win over newly crowned World Cup holders England at Wembley.
In our definitive club history book ‘Manifest Destiny’, author Alastair Blair notes:
"His players all said what a gentleman Bobby Brown was. He came from the old school of management, where managers wore smart clothes, generally looking the part and didn’t take much to do with training.
"A charming man, he could be politically ruthless when it came to dealing with his charges. This is not a criticism, rather it is a compliment. Most great managers have some similar streak in their nature and Bobby was a great manager who brought St Johnstone out of the doldrums.
"His wheeling and dealing in the transfer marker produced some great players and he laid the framework for his successor to move onto even better things."
A member of both the Rangers FC and Scottish FA’s Halls of Fame, Bobby took charge of 393 St. Johnstone first-team matches – more than any other manager in our history and is truly a Club legend!
The thoughts of everyone connected with St Johnstone are with Bobby’s family at this sad time. A minute’s silence in memory of Bobby will be held ahead of kick off in Saturday’s Scottish Cup tie with Greenock Morton FC.
PICTURE: Bobby Brown (second from left), unfurling the 1962/63 Second Division championship flag.
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