Football: Pragmatic Brown plans to broaden his horizons

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The Independent Online
CRAIG BROWN is no Ally MacLeod, as he was at pains to point out yesterday, and he has the plans to prove it as Scotland approach the first tricky phase in the quest to qualify for the European Championship finals.

If MacLeod came from the romantic wing of Scottish football, as indicated by his infamous failure to have Peru watched before the 1978 World Cup, Brown represents its pragmatic tendency. With two Group Eight wins behind him, he is already plotting not only for the games with Russia and Greece, but beyond.

While his side were beating the Faroe Islands 5-1 at Hampden Park, the Scotland manager had spies at 4-0 wins for Greece and Russia over Finland and San Marino respectively. Next week, Brown will watch AEK Athens, on whom the Greeks draw heavily, against Milan; and when he talked about going to the Far East he did not mean Fife.

Brown revealed that he had 'strongly recommended' the Scottish FA to accept an invitation to a three-team tournament in Japan in May next year. An unnamed 'Latin nation' would complete the line-up, and although the dates clash with the English and Scottish FA Cup finals, Brown saw it as the ideal build-up to the return with the Faroes on 7 June.

Further evidence of Brown's forward planning was his experiment with Paul McStay as sweeper for the last half-hour at Hampden. It is a role in which he believes the Celtic playmaker could dominate in the manner of Lothar Matthaus.

Of more pressing concern are the fixtures with Russia in Glasgow next month and Greece in Athens in December. Brown is considering a tactical adjustment to accommodate Billy McKinlay, the Dundee United midfielder, who scored his third goal in five internationals.

Brown acknowledged, however, that Russia would require 'a more systematic and controlled approach' than on Wednesday, when, he conceded, there were 'times when we had to send out a taxi to get defenders back'.

Witty one-liners go with the territory. According to Brown, who saw a 21,000 crowd for the Faroes as 'acceptable', banging the tartan drum does not. 'Ally MacLeod's a friend and I love the guy,' he said, 'but it's not in my nature to be like that.' Nevertheless, he expects 30,000 against the Russians.

The Finland coach, Tommy Lindholm, resigned yesterday following his side's 4-0 defeat against Greece.