Brooks bond that will run and run

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The Independent Football

It has taken Brooks Mileson a while, but at Hampden Park next Saturday he will have the chance to emulate his old rival.

Brendan Foster already has a cup final success to his name. Back in 1974, the great Gateshead Harrier won an international 3,000m race held on the track around the perimeter of the pitch at Wembley as an hors d'oeuvre to the FA Cup final between his beloved Newcastle United and Liverpool. Next Saturday his one-time nemesis will be at Hampden hoping to get his hands on the Scottish Cup as managing director and owner of Gretna.

"I look forward to seeing Brooks run on the pitch if they win it," Foster mused. "We'll see if he can still run fast."

Mileson could run fast in his youth. In fact, the maverick millionaire behind the Gretna fairy-tale was blessed with such fleetness of foot the young Foster feared he would never get out of his shadow - let alone go on to world-record-breaking and Olympic-medal-winning glory.

When Mileson won the youths' race at the North of England cross country championships at Huddersfield in February 1966, Foster finished 31st. When Mileson won the youths' title at the English cross country championships in Sheffield a month later, Foster was still a distant tenth.

"Brooks was a very, very good athlete," Foster reflected. "He looked as though he could have gone all the way, to be honest. He was a hard runner, a bit like Dave Bedford. He used to go to the front and run everybody into the deck. There were times I ran against him when I thought, 'Christ, I'll never beat him'. He was the top man. But then I beat him on the track and I never saw much of him after that. I don't think he ran much after his junior years. I don't know exactly what stopped him."

Mileson hung up his racing shoes soon after entering the senior ranks, saying he only ever took up running because he wanted to prove wrong the doctors who said he would never walk again after he was badly injured in an accident at a quarry at the age of 11. He did, though, make his mark internationally - finishing third and leading England to the team title in the junior race at the International Cross Country Championships at Barry in 1967. He also won that English youths' title at Sheffield in 1966 - albeit after Tony Simmons, the race leader, had been misdirected with a mile to go.

Like Foster, Simmons went on to become one of Britain's distance running stars of the 1970s. The little Welshman took the 10,000m silver medal behind Manfred Kuschmann of East Germany at the European Championships in Rome in 1974 and finished fourth in the 10,000m final at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976 - behind Lasse Viren, Carlos Lopes and Foster.

As well as winning that Olympic bronze medal, Foster was European 5,000m champion in 1974 (beating Viren in the process), Commonwealth 10,000m champion in 1978, and set world records at 3,000m and two miles. Now 58, he is head of the sports marketing firm Nova International and a member of BBC television's athletics commentary team.

"I haven't seen Brooks since we last ran against each other," Foster said, "but, funnily enough, I bumped into an accountant a couple of years ago who told me he was selling a company for Brooks for £20m. So he's obviously been an outstanding businessman. And you have to say 'hats off' to him for what he's achieved with Gretna. It's just a fantastic story.

"You can tell him I'll be supporting his team in the cup final."