Football: Brown planning to quit Scots after 2002 World Cup

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CRAIG BROWN wants to bring the curtain down on his Scotland career by leading the country to the World Cup finals before passing the job to a coach he helped to groom for the job.

The Scotland coach, in Tokyo for today's World Cup qualifying draw, is to meet with the Scottish Football Association soon to discuss the possibility of preparing a replacement before his contract expires at the end of 2001. But he confirmed that he has no intention of standing down before he has secured Scotland's place for Japan 2002 - unless he is asked to do so.

Brown took Scotland to Euro 96 and France 98, but his hopes of leading his side to Euro 2000 were ended by England in a play-off last month.

Yesterday Brown said: "I'll ask the committee what feelings they might have on the matter and, because I know all the guys who would probably come into contention, if they want any guidance from me.

"When I got the job six years ago and requested that Alex Miller worked alongside me, it was pointed out nicely that neither of us had any international caps. The possibility of grooming a successor was mentioned then and what we proceeded to do was take along coaches like Willie Miller, Murdo MacLeod, Tommy Burns and Alex McLeish to help us prepare for different games.

"I still have that freedom, but what I have to find out is whether the committee want me to exercise or identify one particular person who might take over in time.

"I'll go of my own volition after our participation in the forthcoming World Cup is ended although it could be I'll be sacked beforehand if we're not seen as having a chance of qualifying for it."

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, would be Brown's preferred choice to take over, but it is difficult to see Sir Alex turning his back on his club side, the European champions, Manchester United. Brown, nevertheless, still has talent on his shortlist, which includes names like Gordon Strachan, Miller, McLeish, Paul Sturrock, Joe Jordan, Jim Jefferies, Bobby Williamson and Graeme Souness.

Hearts have appealed for fans to identify culprits guilty of racist or religious abuse after receiving complaints over the behaviour of certain people in the recent game with Celtic.

The Hearts chief executive, Chris Robinson, warned that any fans found guilty face life bans. Robinson said: "We have received a number of complaints of unacceptable behaviour and supporters should be warned these incidents are criminal offences. The reports we have are from ordinary Hearts fans who find the behaviour of a few totally unacceptable.

"We are asking supporters to advise us of the section, row and seat number of anyone bringing the good name of Hearts into disrepute."

The former Scotland international Ally McCoist yesterday returned to training just seven weeks after breaking his leg playing for Kilmarnock against Rangers in October.

McCoist, 37, has made a remarkable recovery and although the return of the former Ibrox striker will provide a big lift for the Premier League strugglers, his manager, Bobby Williamson, insists that he will not be rushed back into action.

The Celtic striker Mark Viduka has rebuffed suggestions that he is unhappy with life at Parkhead and insists that he will be doing his all to lead the club to the championship.

The Australian international was the subject of speculation at the weekend linking him with a pounds 6m move to the French side Lens. But the 24-year-old, who has scored 15 goals this season as Celtic have struggled for consistency under John Barnes' new regime, has rejected stories that he is unsettled.

Viduka said: "I don't know why people are trying to make trouble for myself and for the club - it is just ridiculous. My future is I want to win the league with Celtic so I try not to take notice what is being written about me.

"I will just keep doing a job as well as I can for myself and for the club."

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