Jefferies & Brown: An enduring managerial partnership

Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown
Jefferies and Brown had two spells as Hearts' management team

Football was the bedrock of the relationship between Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown.

They met playing at primary school level and ended up with one of the most enduring and solidly successful managerial partnerships in Scottish football.

From schoolmates at Musselburgh Grammar, through their respective playing careers, they joined forces at Berwick Rangers. Jefferies' appointment as manager at Shielfield Park might have been the end rather than the beginning, since his initial instinct was to appoint another friend, Lindsay Muir, as his assistant.

Muir, a former Hibernian player, was not ready to stop playing, though, and when Brown phoned to congratulate Jefferies and offer help if he ever needed it, a managerial team was established.

There was little time to become accustomed to the demands of the job. Berwick were Scotland's bottom club and needed to be revived. "We went 22 games without defeat," Brown recalls, "and still finished second bottom."

The catalyst for the team's run was John 'Yogi' Hughes. The management team decided to adopt Wimbledon-style tactics, and move the centre-back up front.

"We went to Cowdenbeath and we drew 3-3," Jefferies said. "Yogi got a hat-trick and two centre-halves were taken to hospital.

"We played the league leaders on the Saturday at Berwick and we drew 4-4. The two centre-halves were taken to the hospital there and Yogi scored another hat-trick. He was a hardy boy."

Strong individuals were important to Jefferies and Brown. They were never afraid to take on challenging personalities, as they showed when they moved to Falkirk and signed the likes of Ian McCall and Simon Stainrod, as well as bringing Hughes back to Scotland from Swansea and also capturing Maurice Johnston and Frank McAvennie.

Falkirk players celebrate winning the 1993 Scottish Challenge Cup
Falkirk won the Scottish Challenge Cup during Jefferies' time in charge

Tynecastle too tempting

When Hearts came calling in 1995, though, Jefferies could not resist. The job that he took on turned out to be one of drastic rebuilding, although he understood that was required.

"The players had a terrific career at Hearts, but in 10 years they had five managers, good managers, people who had been successful," Jefferies said.

"It needed someone strong enough to go in and change it."

Hearts fell to the bottom of the league following a defeat at Falkirk - a result gleefully celebrated by the home support - and Jefferies and Brown, standing in the toilet off the away dressing room at Brockville, decided the time was right to blood some of the club's promising young players and sign some fresh talent, including French goalkeeper Gilles Rousset and Italian defender Pasquale Bruno.

"I said, 'that's it, I've had enough, I'm going to make changes'," Jefferies said.

"[The young players] had five years of winning the reserve league twice and winning the reserve cup. I said, 'let's see if they're good enough or not', and we never looked back."

The mood at the club instantly changed and Hearts ended the season fourth in the league and in the Scottish Cup final, which they lost 5-1 to Rangers.

The progress continued, although there was another defeat by Rangers in the Scottish League Cup final. Those defeats, and a series in the league the following season, all contributed to Jefferies and Brown's greatest triumph, though - the 1998 Scottish Cup final against the Ibrox side.

Hearts players celebrate winning the Scottish Cup in 1998
The managerial duo enjoyed further trophy success in 1998 with Hearts

"I gave [the players] a fact: we'd played Rangers four times in the league and had a lot of plaudits for the way we'd played but they'd scored 13 goals against us in four matches," Jefferies said.

"So we needed to change the way we played. Our plan was to let them attack us."

A defensive mindset turned out to be ideal. Hearts scored in the opening two minutes and went on to lift the cup, sparking memorable scenes of celebration back in Edinburgh that night and the following day when the team paraded the trophy in an open-top bus.

"When I got up the next morning I was pretty rough," Jefferies said. "So when I came down, [the hotel had] a little shop and I said, 'you've not got a Resolve have you'?

"This was about half-eight in the morning, and they said, 'no, but Boots in Shandwick Place is open'.

"The place was dead, nobody about, then one person coming along the road, head down.

"He'd be about in his 60s or something, long coat on, long scarf, and I said, 'you've had a good night then'.

"He just half-looked up and said, 'have I had a good night? God bless that Jim Jefferies'. And he walked past me."

'I miss it like anything'

Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown
Jefferies and Brown's longest spell at a club was with Kilmarnock

There was a frustrating spell at Bradford, seven-and-a-half mostly happy years at Kilmarnock, then a second spell at Tynecastle.

Their careers were underpinned by a sense of sound management and team building, even if their ferocious presences on the touchline left the impression that every instruction was hollered in anger.

"Everybody just thinks we shouted all the time," Brown said. "We did it for a purpose, not just because we had lost the rag.

"Every day I worked with Jim was a pleasure. Jim was one of the best man-managers you could meet.

"I did my part at the club and he did his. I regret not one single day, and I miss it like anything."