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Brown and Knox can make Dons a force again

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Jim Spence | 14:53 UK time, Friday, 10 December 2010

Craig Brown once told me the story of his first teaching job in a tough Dundee primary school.

Answering a loud chapping on the classroom door, he opened it to be immediately punched in the face by an irate father.

Broon, though, was no shrinking violet and the hasty father had cause to regret his right hook, which was I believe returned with interest.

That tale should not be lost on the Pittodrie dressing room.

Brown is no mug and will not be taken for one by anybody.

Archie Knox and Craig Brown

Brown (right) and Knox are swapping Fir Park for Pittodrie (picture from SNS)

His gentlemanly image will have taken a battering with the way he has left Motherwell, but he is in the business of professional football management and unfortunately for supporters that is how the game works.

Motherwell are seething at their management team's decision to go, and that is understandable, but football operates in a parallel universe and normal rules of business do not apply.

So the issue to be addressed is, can Brown and Knox turn Pittodrie from a sad, dour, unsuccessful place into a vibrant, happy and successful one?

Along with Archie Knox, Brown has a depth of experience in handling players and situations which might outwit many, but will not trouble him.

On the face of it they seem to have proved that there is less to football management than meets the eye with apparently effortless success at Fir Park.

By common consent they have done a fine job there, but it is down to experience acquired over extensive football careers at high level, a keen appreciation of how to motivate and enthuse players and a sound understanding of the tactics required to fit the players at their disposal.

Motherwell are outgunning both Hibs and Aberdeen, and are just three points behind Hearts - all clubs who have far greater resources available to them.

Brown and Knox are responsible for that and Motherwell fans may feel less bitter once a new management team is in place and continuing the good work at Fir Park, with a side who are capable of a top-four finish on current form.

Now the pair need to use their talents to quickly restore the Dons as a serious fighting force.

The notion that Aberdeen are too good to be relegated is absurd. The form they have shown under Mark McGhee made them serious candidates for the drop.

Brown and Knox, I believe, will correct that quickly.

They will surely have been promised funds to add to the squad to ensure that the calamity of relegation does not engulf the club.

And with a contacts book unlikely to be bettered by any management team in Scotland, they will be able to strengthen in the January window to pull the club away from the bottom end of the table.

They will also quickly instill a sense of understanding in the squad about what it should mean to play for one of Scotland's great clubs.

Once that work ethic is driven home, and once a bit of extra quality is brought in to help the influential and experienced Paul Hartley, a quick move away from the basement will occur.

Aberdeen have good emerging young players like Peter Pawlett, Ryan Jack, Mitch Megginson and of course Fraser Fyvie, who is currently out with cruciate ligament damage.

Brown and Knox will be capable of developing them while pruning from the squad those who at present are not good enough for Aberdeen's ambitions.

The Dons' move for this management pairing took many by surprise.

I suspect it will not be an appointment lasting into infinity and beyond, but it will certainly bring a buzz to Pittodrie and is light years ahead of some of the choices they could have made.

You can never tell in football, but I think that at this time the Brown-Knox duo is one which can make the Dons a force again in Scottish football.


  • Comment number 1.

    It can only be for money that they have moved to Aberdeen, who wouldn't go where the big buck is? You have to feel sorry for Motherwell however as they gave the aging duo a chance to demonstrate they still had what it takes.

    Good luck in their new venture but they will need to be backed by being given money something denied the previous incumbent.

    The Scottish Premier frontpage still displays the headline,"Alloa showed up the rest of football by getting the game on in the winter gloom" which I think justifies my original complaint regarding the previous blog.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think it is purely about money, Broony doesn't strike me as a money-grabbing guy.

    They both came out very publicly and said they were happy, loyal and staying at Motherwell. Then they had a meeting with Leeann Dempster to discuss the future path of the club & promptly resigned to go to Aberdeen. What happened there?

    My guess is they were not given guarantees beyond the short term & decided to work on a longer term project. Or Stewart Milne had some incriminating photos.

    Jeez, morbhoy's still complaining about the Alloa blog...

  • Comment number 3.

    Has anyone listened to Brown explaining his choice? It shows that he doesn't want to stay at Motherwell. This is obvious anyone because of the fact that he is coming to us. We are in the bottom two. Our owner is not giving the manager any money to spend. And our squad is very difficult to pull together for any manager. If he is being called great after doing this job for Motherwell if he does anything with us he should be knighted and offered the opportunity of succession to the throne. Oh, and on the matter of compensation technically they were working without a contract so there is no employment and therefore no compensation. Please tell me if I'm wrong on this point.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm a Dons fan and was a initially a bit unhappy at the plundering of Broon n' Knox, but on reflection have changed ma mind.

    Both had NO contract at Motherwell - if Motherwell valued them so highly why didn't they sign the?

    And they now believe Aberdeen have breached "etiquette" by approaching them? - that may be the case but it's hardly actionable. My 7 year old seems to know more about contract law...

  • Comment number 5.

    "football operates in a parallel universe and normal rules of business do not apply."

    Is this really an example of that though? They were working without a long-term contract, another employer offered them a job and they took it. Seems reasonable to me!

    I doubt Broon moved for the money. I can't imagine that Aberdeen were able to offer much more money than Motherwell.

  • Comment number 6.

    Broon and Knox next on the Pittodrie Ghost Train! But how long will they last?

    Broon is a small to medium club manager at best so ideal for AFC. I know he had a 'statistically' decent record with Scotland but too much of a feartie and never promoted the development of young players when we needed them most. With Vogts we paid the price for that.

    But if ever a club is paying the price of the 'pretendy big team' with the unreasonable expectations of their fans its this one. How long before we get the Aberdeen-minded rubbish? Sacking and taunting of JC was disgraceful and he wasn't that bad for them.

    A solid pair but they will have to strengthen: their defence is a big priority in all positions, and some of them have gone back (Zander cost them four goals against Celtic). But £11m in debt should mean there is little available to strengthen. Ironically, the less than Dandies have probably spent more on sacking managers in recent years than signing players: testament to poor board management and Willie Miller.

  • Comment number 7.

    Brown and Knox are hardly likely to make Aberdeen 'a force'. Their aim for the season will be ensuring they don't get dragged into a relegation battle and anything more would a bonus.

    It's not like they have years ahead of them in the job. By the time they steady the ship Brown will be ready for retirement and Aberdeen will be back at square one.

    A few years ago this move would have been a step up but no longer. Brown and Knox should have stayed at Fir Park.

  • Comment number 8.

    Dundee fans have been bringing up Craig Brown's name every time we need a new manager but for some reason he was never considered by us.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great appointment for the Dons. Broonie is exactly what they need right now. An auld heid, who will steady the ship this season, and then lead them to mid table safety next season, all the while making them difficult to beat.

    They make only get 18months from them but Aberdeen will be in a better state when they leave

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree Brown and Know will steady the ship. However, they are pretty middle of the road managers. They got lucky at Motherwell in that they inherited a reasonable squad and to be fair added a couple of good loans. However, that's in stark contrast to what they will find at Aberdeen. The good news is that following McGhee looks like a good career strategy - after he knocks the football out of the team you get to go in and look like a superstar. Like others can't see it as anything other than a stop-gap but agree they will leave Aberdeen better than they found them... and Milne only has to pay them a top up to their pension to make a living wage!!

  • Comment number 11.

    A good appointment. Aberdeen need a new defence, ship out the dead wood at the back and ask Zander Diamond to take a permanent berth in Celtic's main stand watching his beloved Hoops. His performances since Russell Anderson left have been extremely sub-par, which maybe indicates how much Aberdeen miss Mr Anderson (Is he still kicking about somewhere? Loan signing perhaps?).

    Unfortunately Fyvie is out with cruciate ligament damage; for me, he's the ideal partner for Hartley in midfield. Aberdeen have some extremely promising youth players; what they need now is four or five hardened, experienced professionals to augment the great spirit displayed by Hartley. Mid table this season, challenging for third next year must be the targets.

  • Comment number 12.

    i hope the best for both clubs involved. anything to make spl clubs a success instead of a failure pleases me. I hope motherwell can get a great appointment to continue the good work brown and knox did there too. the more quality outfits in the spl the better.

  • Comment number 13.

    oh and 11 i agree on the defensive comment. anderson i think is now at derby county being mainly used as a sub.

  • Comment number 14.

    Some sensitive issues in another good blog, Jim,

    “So the issue to be addressed is, can Brown and Knox turn Pittodrie from a sad, dour, unsuccessful place into a vibrant, happy and successful one?”

    I hope they do. Scottish football needs this badly.

    I suspect however that after a few successes we’ll be hearing the expectant chants of “Here we go, Here we go, Here we go ………” from the Aberdeen faithful but I hope they do not delude themselves into thinking that Craig and Archie have the sole responsibility for the revival of Aberdeen’s fortunes.

    Ultimate responsibility lies with the Board.

    When Mark McGee took over as manager, I always thought that there was an immediate transformation in his character from a man confident in himself and where he was going, into someone who was unsure of himself, unable to deal of stress and unable to instil confidence in fans or players.

    What caused this, I don’t know. More of a Gut Feeling really but I hope the Board take note and don’t allow this to happen again.

    They are the one’s now, who need to look closely at their own selves. They are the one’s who need to reach out into the Aberdeen Community.

    I don’t believe they have the wrong people on the Board but I do believe that as a management team, they have been somewhat lost for ideas, for a number of years.

    For me, and without wishing to be disrespectful to Mark McGee, Craig Brown and Archie Knox have a level of respect that MM could never attain, which the Aberdeen Board must not undermine.

    Aberdeen fans have seen to many management failures and if this latest venture fails there will be no hiding place in Aberdeen for single member of the Board.

    Chief Executive Duncan Fraser has said that the club is about to go through a period of change.

    I hope he is correct.

  • Comment number 15.

    Make AFC a 'force' or is it 'farce' Jim? They've been slipping as the former and gaining as the latter for years now: third force, more like top farce!

    Scottish football needs a challenger from the littler clubs but no especial reason why this should be the Dons. They've just gone back to their pre-Fergie days: crowds back to the 5k level and a barren trophy cabinet. The decline in the North-East clubs in general has been marked in recent years and only Utd have managed to keep with the OF.

    Brown? Nothing more than soild.

    But going to Aberdeen? He must be mad. They are a comic club these days.

  • Comment number 16.

    Brown's going to need whatever funds he's been promised by Milne. He's inheriting a far weaker squad there than he did when he took the Motherwell job.

    I suspect the move is perhaps more to do with a fear that a lack of funds at Motherwell would make them look bad after they lose 2-3 key players, rather than this oft-cited "potential" at Aberdeen.

    I would also question Aberdeen's general policy. They seem to spend more money on both hiring and firing managers (Calderwood and McGhee most obviously) than on actually constructing a squad.

  • Comment number 17.

    Is there really such a thing as a 'tough' 'primary' school....given that the pupils range from four to pre-teen?

    That aside, I don't buy this overly optimistic view of Aberdeen's fortunes under Brown and Knox. I'm not suggresting they're a couple of duds - far from it - but they're not a couple of miracle workers either, and it's miracles - or money - that Aberdeen will need to restore them to such a state that we can describe them once again as a 'force'.

    Let's look at the facts:

    Brown managed a part-time first division club before going on to manage Scotland. Was he successful?

    Most would agree that he was. After all, didn't he take us to France 98 and to our first Euro finals?

    But let's not forget he failed to get us to Euro 2000 or the 2002 World Cup and took a Preston North End side who had made it to the play-offs in the previous two seasons down to 12th the following season, 15th the season after that, and with one point out of nine in August 2004 it was time for Brown to get his coat.

    Brown has done well at Motherwell in the year he's been there. But Mark McGhee took charge of a Motherwell side that finished third from bottom and then took them to third top the following season - with a 22 points improvement.

    That to me suggests that Aberdeen's current predicament is due to factors outside of who picks and trains the team.

  • Comment number 18.

    Broon and Knox might want to reconsider after Tynecastle today Jim!

    His record with Scotland was good overall I agree but he was far too negative and lets not forget he was part of the duo that failed against Costa Rica. More critically, when managing Scotland he was always talking up how good the opposition were and players under 30 never seemed to get a game. This was from the man who also doubled up as the SFA's head of Youth Development! Joke. And it was this factor that left Vogts with the unenviable job of blooding lots of young boys and sent our ratings into freefall.

    Billy Davies was a big factor at Preston with Broon. Broon is clearly a guy who is intelligent enough to combine with an astute assistant. Archie Knox will be just as important as Broon who I don't believe could cut it in club football on any other terms.

    Its a sign of decline at AFC and their shambles at board level that the appointment of a 70 year old no better than average manager is seen as a bit of a coup.

  • Comment number 19.

    Oh dear - What have we done errchie? you can just hear the conversation as they head west tonight. Motherwell was a challenge which I suspect was within there capability to manage. Half decent squad, the proverbial few loans in and a bit of organisation - basically all you need to compete in the middle of the SPL. I agree with Stew10 @18 when he reflects on this appointment being seen as a coup! - pretty un-ambitious for a "big city club" in my view. The board are the same people who sacked Calderwood after two reasonable seasons, held on to McGhee when it was clear he was finished. Milne has consistently shown poor judgement and Willie Miller seems a nice guy, reasonable pundit who did a cracking fish supper but together they are just not making the right decisions. If this so called sleeping giant is to be re-awakened its going to need a re-think top to bottom.

    I agree the SPL needs teams like Motherwell, Aberdeen, Hearts etc challenging the OF but can't see Pa Broon being the catalyst they need.

  • Comment number 20.

    If Craig Brown is such a talent to merit the optimism of restoring Aberdeen as a force again....then why did he spend five years out of the game prior to Motherwell hiring him? Just a thought.

  • Comment number 21.

    @20 - I believe they call it 'resting' - well at that age you need your sleep

  • Comment number 22.

    #17. Jim's teaching anecdote relates to an irate father. Pugilistic fathers aged four to pre-teen are pretty thin on the ground, even in Dundee.

    That aside I think that 'Well fans have not seen the end of this. I hope their squad are on long contracts. I am pretty sure that No. 1 on the Broon wish list will be most of the Motherwell defence.

    I don't know what Aberdeen pay but I'm betting it's more than Motherwell.

  • Comment number 23.

    Stew10 @ 18

    “Its a sign of decline at AFC and their shambles at board level that the appointment of a 70 year old no better than average manager is seen as a bit of a coup”

    I disagree somewhat with your assessment of Craig Brown and I wonder if the Aberdeen Board has viewed the appointment from an entirely different perspective.

    Aberdeen clearly needs a steady hand on the tiller and Craig Brown can fulfil this need. With Archie Knox, their combined experience allows the Aberdeen Board to explore new avenues.

    Firstly, they have appointed a two man team to replace MM and I can’t see WM’s role continuing ‘as is’ and some of his Director of Football duties may well transfer to the management team who clearly outstrip him in terms of management experience and achievement.

    Secondly, with a track record of failed managers, for whatever reason, I think that the attention has inevitably turned to WM as the football voice on the Board. Too much expectation has been placed on his shoulders and I think the criticism has been at times unfair. This new appointment will allow WM to fulfil a much more important Community role for which he is ideally suited.

    Lastly I think that the appointment of CB and AK is an indicator within the Board of a realisation that a new approach is required.

    Duncan Fraser and WM have both given indications of this so we will have to wait and see before we stand in judgement.

    I think CB and AK’s appointment is therefore a positive first step.

  • Comment number 24.

    Stewart Milne and his wooden tops have mismanaged our club for longer than I can remember. This latest change of manager will not fix things at afc, unless there are sufficient funds made available. To bring Aberdonians back to todders, there needs to be a huge change on and off the field.
    Can't see that happening any time soon.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm not in any way denying its a more positive step for them at all and lets face it whatever they did they needed a 'new approach' to something.

    That is why I described it being a 'coup' for them because who otherwise would they get? What sitting SPL manager (with a contract!) would move there to that Board and that set of fans? The only other realistic options were the gang of unemployed ex-SPL managers, the untried backroom staff or the Chisholm and Dodds duo.

    They have been a shambles as a club, lurching from one failed appointment to another, and have ended up in a mess largely of the making at Board level and the impatience of large sections of their fans. By some estimates AFC have shelled out something in the region of £2.5m in hiring/ firing managers in recent years. Asotonishingly profilgate and inept in a club by some estimates £13m in debt!!

    Broon was (and is) a small club manager at best and AK is the more significant footballing part of this duo in my view. Broon may well retire in this role and step up to exec level I don't know. But he has few years in him even at this level.

    Postive first step or steady hands or not, there are few guarantees in football and AFC might still find themselves relegated.

  • Comment number 26.


    They might reschedule the lunchtime games now against the OF to allow him a wee nap before the action starts.

  • Comment number 27.


    I am also surprised at the degree of negativity aimed at Brown on this page. You will recall the opprobrious nature of, mainly Glasgow based, press comment in his latter days as Scotland boss. Too negative, not ambitious enough etc. etc.

    The same commentators had no issue when the Blessed Walter 'parked the bus' - i.e. made us difficult to beat - and this carried on under McLeish. Did we qualify for anything under those regimes ? A rhetorical question.

    Brown was an excellent Scotland manager. He has our last qualifications on his CV. A sound appointment for Aberdeen I feel.

    Finally, contributors who focus on his age should be ashamed of themselves. It is just a number. You will get there. If you are as effective as Brown at his age you will be very fortunate.

  • Comment number 28.

    @27 Don't think the negativity is about his age per se. Rather its about his somewhat mixed success over the years. Aberdeen are in dire straits as Saturday's absolute mauling at Tynecastle demonstrated and the club need a management team capable of turning that around. I agree that is within the Brown and Knox grasp but I suspect they will not get Aberdeen back to their former glory days. As I stated in my earlier post they got lucky at Motherwell in that they inherited a group of young players pretty motivated and who were a strong team at the core. Contrast that with the current AGC squad who despite having the new manager in the stand on Saturday looked beaten before they took the pitch - despite a 'pep talk' from messers Brown and Knox before the match.

    Brown and Knox are decent guys with a lot of experience but they are not anything other than that. They may well save AFC from relegation (despite having the 3rd highest pay bill in the SPL) Next season will be a different matter. If Aberdeen had any ambition and if Aberdeen are really a big 'City" club then tempting the likes of Terry Butcher should have been within their capability.

    ps - I'm not much younger that these guys so I am certainly not banging the ageist drum...

  • Comment number 29.

    @ #27 & #28

    I didn’t want to mention our national obsession, the ‘N’ word, but I think Jim has hit the nail on the head when he mentioned ‘the issue to be addressed’.

    I see Jim’s assessment more as a set of objectives than issues and what really has to be overcome is the negativity that encapsulates AFC. I’ve mentioned before my disbelief at the way Aberdeen crowds treat their team.

    Having talked to some former players I know full well how this has affected them personally and turning things around will require tackling the deep cultural divide that has split the club from the local community, and that goes way beyond the brief of CB & AK.

    We keep mentioning the glory days of AFC and I remember how involved many of the players were with the community. Alex McLeish and John McMaster would often put in extra training, jogging around the outskirts of Aberdeen. They used to call into Woodland Hospital for disabled children, sometimes with little things for the kids or sometime just to say hello.

    I’m not trying to paint a picture of them as Saints. What I am saying is that this sort of thing is missing from AFC of today, with many of the present team seemingly reluctant to have such exposure for understandable reasons.

    So I think it is about ditching the ‘N’ word and just maybe it can a positive start, if some of the decency of CB & AK, you mention, turns the fans around as well as the team.

  • Comment number 30.

    #27 I don't think I'm being disrespectful to Broon when I describe him as no more than an average manager. But in my view when he was Scotland manager or with Andy Roxburghe it was a very negative period when we got to hear all sorts of nonsense about how good the opposition were and how we were not so technically gifted. They dampened expectations to the point where the the negative outweighed the postive and we seemed to forget the art of going out and having a go. And this in a period when we still had the likes of Gary McAllister, John Collins, Paul McStay and Pat Nevin in the ranks of the team. Craig Levein was also around (when fit) and yet Davie McPherson (a far inferior player) was always chosen.

    Walter and McLeish had comparatively less gifted players yet produced argubly bigger results against the likes of France (and Paris was in my view Scotland best ever performance and result!). With Broon it was always primarily 'safety first' and even Billy Dodds described him as an expert in not losing games. So I didn't like his mogadon approach and managers like Jack Charlton got far far more from a more limited ROI side than Craig ever did with a technically better set of players.

    'Safety first' and more of a concern with HIS record and not getting beat meant that younger players under 30 never got anywhere near the first team. This was despite Broon being head of Youth Development at the SFA! It meant that when Vogts took over we ended up in a scrabble scenario where large numbers of younger players had to be blooded and this reflected itself in some pretty poor results and performances. Vogts was poor but the legacy left to him by the cautious approaches of Roxburghe and Broon meant that he had little or no choice but do this.

    You'd think given the stats of his record with Scotland bigger clubs than the likes of Preston and then Motherwell would have picked him up but this never happened. And at the former he failed badly and Billy Davies picked up the reins. And now he works with AK!

    So all in all no more than an average manager. Probably what AFC need just now is a bit of solidity and boredom, and if so then they have the right guy on the basis of his record.

  • Comment number 31.

    @#28, You are absolutely right. Brown and Knox will not bring the glory days back at AFC. It would need the equivalent of the parting of the Red Sea for that to occur. And it is here that I sympathise with Iain Jack @#29.

    I detect a deep malaise at Pittodrie. Successive managers have failed to match performances against a very good budget in comparative terms. Their fans are leaving in droves which I find difficult to understand. Is it that the bulk of the large support in the Fergie years predicated their allegiance purely on success ? Don't know.

    Brown can do no worse than his immediate predecessors. I think he will do considerably better. Time will tell.

    p.s. I suspect we are of an age Uriah. Just been dragooned into fixing Christmas tree lights. They used to work year after year or is this just rose-tinted specs ?

  • Comment number 32.

    Their fans are leaving in droves which I find difficult to understand. Is it that the bulk of the large support in the Fergie years predicated their allegiance purely on success ? Don't know.
    Interesting you say this Hibby because I read an article by Harry Reid in the Herald recently where he mentioned average crowds of 5k at Pittodrie pre-Fergie.

    So the 'glory' hunters of the Fergie years and more are going. And if you look at what the Dons actually won before Fergie it probably only amounted to a championship and a couple of cups.

    But people forget that their success was founded on three managers and not one: Ally McLeod, Billy McNeill and then Fergie.

    Interestingly Harry Reid also argued that they needed an Ally McLeod figure to get people in the city excited again about their football. What 'excited' means in Aberdeen is another issue but charismatic is not what Craig Brown did in his prime never mind at 70 odd.

    However, I go with #30Stew in the assessment of Brown with Scotland. We still had a decent bunch of players at that point but the football was pretty turgid to watch. How Roy Aitken ever won as many caps as he did is still a complete mystery to me.


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