Football: Exit Brown and Celtic go on spree

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WHETHER IT was player power or fan power that finally tipped the balance, Jock Brown yesterday bowed to what had long seemed inevitable and resigned from his job as Celtic's general manager.

Brown, the brother of the Scotland manager, Craig, offered his resignation after discussions with the Scottish champions' chairman, Fergus McCann. It was accepted by the board, readily to judge from McCann's subsequent statement.

It had become apparent that "home sweet home" was not likely to be hanging on a wall inside Celtic Park. McCann made it clear that, despite last season's championship success, to which Brown's "contribution was significant and appreciated", all was not well.

"In recent times it became clear to the board that despite Jock's best efforts, progress in some important matters and issues had become compromised," McCann said. "This may have had an adverse affect on the football atmosphere and the backing of our supporters. I have discussed these matters with Jock and he accepts this. Consequently he tendered his resignation. Jock appreciates that there is a feeling within the massive Celtic support that a significant change is desired."

The secretary of the Association of Registered Celtic Supporters Clubs could not contain his joy. "Jock Brown was an arrogant and bombastic man who could not see the problems he was causing," Peter Rafferty said. "You could see the difference in the atmosphere at the ground today with him gone. It was just like the day in May when we won the League title."

The problem with winning the championship can be that the only way from there is down. Celtic showed lemming-like tendencies. Wim Jansen, the Dutchman who led Celtic to their first League title for 10 years and the Scottish Coca-Cola Cup, walked out even before the championship trophy needed its first polish, citing problems with Brown. Then, in his book the midfielder Paul Lambert wrote of his difficult relationship with the now departed general manager.

Brown, who had no regrets at taking on the job in June last year, admitted: "It would be insensitive and inappropriate for me not to acknowledge the difficulties my continued involvement here would present for the club."

Celtic plan to maintain their present management structure and replace Brown as soon as possible. For the moment, player contracts, transfers and related matters will be handled by McCann and Eric Riley, the club's financial director.

That is no great surprise as Brown's appointment was part of a restructuring of the club to suit the demands of the modern game. Jansen took on responsibility for team affairs at the same time, replacing Tommy Burns. If the aim was to put Celtic in a position to break Rangers' nine-year stranglehold on the Scottish League, then it worked.

But the fans were suspicious of Brown, a lawyer and television commentator, who brought an intellectual approach, having had no experience of the professional game. The high point of his footballing career was playing for Cambridge University at Wembley.

Supporters were not impressed that Jansen walked out and, wanting a big- name replacement, were not happy when the job went to Dr Jozef Venglos, who had a less than successful spell at Aston Villa in 1990-91. He has presided over an unhappy team producing indifferent performances, whose irritations came to a head in a row over bonus payments only two days before they were due to play Croatia Zagreb in the European Cup. Defeat in that tie pitched them into the Uefa Cup, but their second crack at success in a Continental competition ended when they were comfortably beaten by FC Zurich last week.

It seemed Brown's departure lifted a weight from the players' shoulders, although Celtic's captain, Tom Boyd, denied it. "We are professionals and it doesn't make any difference. We want to do our best for the club and the supporters," he said. Perhaps so but less than three hours after the news broke, they set about demolishing a supposedly resurgent Dundee 6-1 in the Premier League.

The Swede Henrik Larsson led the charge with a hat-trick, dispatching the first two from the penalty spot. The second of those spot-kicks followed the dismissal of Barry Smith for a foul on Mark Burchill, who scored the third goal from a knock on by the debutant midfielder Lubomir Moravcik. The teenager Burchill, making his first start of the season, added the fourth goal, too, and after Larsson had completed his hat-trick from Moravcik's pass, Simon Donnelly made it six from Jackie McNamara's.