Robert "Bobby" Brown
Robert "Bobby" Brown was born 19 March 1923 in Dunipace, Stirlingshire is a former Scottish footballer and football manager.
It was at Falkirk High School where Bobby was to receive his first taste of a footballing education. His coach was Hugh Brown (Father of future Scotland Manager, Craig), an ex league player who ran the school team along professional lines.
Bobby showed a real aptitude for goalkeeping and despite enquiries from local team Falkirk, it was Queen's Park who secured his signature on professional terms in 1939, just as the Second World War was breaking. He made his league debut as a 17 year old against Celtic in the April 1940.
Bobby, in an interview with the Scotsman, stated: “Both of Queens' senior goalkeepers were called away for military service," he says. "The game was at Celtic Park and in the very first minute, a cross came over and the next thing I knew I was lying in the back of the net along with the ball. Johnny Divers, the great Celtic forward, helped me back to my feet and said 'Listen son, I know you're only a boy, but you don't try and catch those kind of crosses, you punch them'. It was a lesson I never forgot."
He went on to establish himself as the first-choice goalkeeper for the next two seasons, but like many others at this time, his appearances were interrupted by the War. In common with most part time footballers of the time, Bobby sought a second career, one that he could fall back on when his footballing career finished. While at Queen's Park, he attended teacher training college at Jordanhill in Glasgow where he studied to be a Physical Education Teacher or ‘Gym’ teacher as he described it.
Along with six of his fellow students, he volunteered to join the Fleet Air Arm at Dartmouth Naval College in 1941. Bobby qualified as a pilot, flying a Fairey Swordfish, the aircraft best remembered for its part in sinking the Bismarck. Brown had cause to thank his footballing prowess and regular appearances as he was spared from the kind of conflict which cost five of his six Jordanhill colleagues their lives.
He was allowed to travel back to Scotland regularly to play for Queen's Park, and he came to represent a Combined Services team which regularly played during the war years. It was during one match played at Ipswich, against the Army XI that Bobby played what he described ‘as the game of his life.” Although he was on the losing side, the army 2:0 victors, Bobby came to the attention of A.V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty, who also happened to be vice-president of Chelsea Football Club. Bobby was enrolled as a guest player for the Stamford Bridge club, and he made a couple of appearances for the club.
Bobby recalled that he was fortunate in that A.V. Alexander also arranged for him to attend the Physical Training College in Portsmouth enabling him to continue to pursue his career as a PE teacher. Whilst undertaking his studies, Bobby also played as a guest for Portsmouth and Plymouth.
Due to the war official international football was suspended and so officially the Scotland team was inactive. However unofficial internationals featuring scratch teams representing Scotland and England continued. Yet it was in one of these games that Bobby was to make the first of his ten appearances for Scotland.
Bobby was to play in the games between the two teams on the 3rd February 1945 at Villa Park, Birmingham in front of a crowd of 65,780. England winning 3–2, with Jimmy Delaney and Jock Dodds accounting for Scotland's goals. The Scotland team featured: Robert Brown, James Harley, James Stephen, Matt Busby, RB Thyne, Archie Macaulay, Jimmy Delaney, Willie Fagan, Jock Dodds, Andy Black, Billy Liddell. The Times match report noted: "England would have won by more had it not been for some astonishing saves by Brown."
And again at Hampden Park on 14 April 1945 where a crowd of 133,000 saw England win 6–1. Leslie The line up was: Robert Brown, James Harley, James Stephen, Matt Busby, J Harris, Archie Macaulay, William Waddell, T Bogan (Leslie Johnstone 2'), JR Harris, Andy Black, JC Kelly.
His form was rewarded with a full international call up, and in January 1946 he made his official Scotland debut in a friendly against Belgium. He remains the last amateur player to earn a full international cap for Scotland, and is also the last player to earn a full Scotland cap whilst still a signed player at Hampden.
It was the third unofficial England vs Scotland International that Bobby remembers the most fondly as the match that ‘stands out’ in his illustrious career. It was 13 April 1946 at Hampden Park. In front of 139, 468 spectators Scotland won 1–0 in what was dubbed a 'Victory International'. The Scotland line-up featured: Robert Brown, Davie Shaw, Jock Shaw, William Campbell, Frank Brennan, Jackie Husband, William Waddell, Neil Dougall, Jimmy Delaney, George Hamilton, Billy Liddell.
Bobby explained that the game was heading for Nil:Nil, when he took a knock on his shoulder, with about a few minutes to go. The trainer, Alex Dowdells, came onto the pitch and treated him, stating that given the players in the England team (Frank Swift [Manchester City], Laurence Scott [Arsenal], George Hardwick [Middlesbrough], Billy Wright [Wolverhampton Wanderers], Neil Franklin [Stoke City], Joe Mercer [c] [Everton], William Elliott [West Bromwich Albion], Len Shackleton [Bradford City], Tommy Lawton [Chelsea], James Hagan [Sheffield United],Denis Compton [Arsenal), that a draw was an excellent result for Scotland. Following treatment, and with 89 minutes on the clock, Bobby launched the ball up the park to Jimmy Husband, who was fouled. From the resulting freekick, Willie Waddell crossed and Jimmy Delaney rose to head in. As the ball hit the back of the net, bedlam broke out and nearly 140,000 voices cheered, Bobby stated that he had never heard a noise like it.
At the end of the 1945-46 season, he left Queen's Park for Rangers, where he played for ten years.
Bobby engineered his own move away to Rangers, on terms that were the envy of his teammates, but he could have ended up playing for Manchester United. During the war time Internationals, Matt Busby had been Bobby’s captain, but after the war, he was to be appointed Manchester United manager and he came up to Glasgow to visit Bobby in the St Enoch Hotel, looking to sign for him.
Bobby stated that he was tempted but Rangers were looking for a new goalkeeper after the great Jerry Dawson retired and approached him. Bobby also wanted to get married to his fiancée Ruth, at the time and preferred to stay in Scotland.
During his time at Rangers, he won 5 League championships and 4 Scottish Cups as the last line of the famed Iron Curtain defence. Brown kept 109 clean sheets in 296 appearances for Rangers, his haul of eight major honours including Scottish football's historic first domestic 'treble' in 1948-49 under the stewardship of legendary manager Bill Struth.
Bobby’s career with Rangers ended in August 1952, although he was to remain with the club until 1956. Bill Struth had wanted Bobby to sign full time terms, but he refused, wishing to remain a principal teacher at Alloa Academy. He was dropped from the first team and only made sporadic appearances over the next few years.
Bobby eventually moved on to Falkirk in 1956 but hung up his boots after just six months at Brockville, believing his time in football had come to an end.
However, in 1958, he was approached to become manager of St Johnstone and accepted what proved to be one of his most rewarding challenges, lifting the club from back to the top flight of Scottish football.
"They were eight of the best years of my life," Bobby recalled. "We had crowds of around 500 when I took over but built a new team, won promotion and saw the fans flooding back. I signed players like Alex MacDonald and Alex Ferguson, who still complains about the £300 signing-on fee he got. The club went full-time and so did I for the first time, giving up teaching. I was very contented there, as were my wife and three daughters, and I had no thoughts of moving."
It was his success at St Johnston that brought him to the attention of Willie Allan, secretary of the SFA, and led to his Scotland appointment. Bobby became the first full-time Scotland manager in 1967, and his first international match as manager was the famous 3-2 victory over world champions England at Wembley Stadium. This game also saw Brown give his goalkeeping understudy from his Hampden days, Ronnie Simpson, his international debut. It was this appointment that led Bobby to settle in Helensburgh in 1970, leaving the home that he had built at the foot of the Wallace Monument in Stirling to move to Rowallan Street.
Bobby continued as Scotland manager until 1971 when he paid the price for having failed to qualify for 1970 Mexico World Cup. After his sacking, he never ventured back into the game a formal capacity., although he did do some scouting roles for Plymouth Argyll.
With his wife Ruth, who sadly died in 1984 at the age of 59 from a rare form of blood cancer, Bobby opened a gift and coffee shop ‘Whichcraft’ in Helensburgh and later the hugely popular Copper Chimney restaurant, both successful ventures.
Bobby, having moved to a smaller house in McLeod Drive, remains an active rambler and likes to keep fit.
Bobby is a Rangers Hall of Fame Inductee.
Pictures by kind permission of Rangers Football Club.