THE flickering television screen in a Kirkcaldy home was the focus of an obsessed 16-year-old, scribbling with the intensity of a punter who has just been given a certainty for a race that starts in five seconds.
"I was a bit weird, I suppose," confesses Robert Rowan, all of seven years later. "I would make up these huge reports on football matches on the telly. My mates would be out getting on with life and I would be looking at transitions, set-pieces and formations. I created my own system, my own database."
He laughs at the sheer geekiness of it all but adds: "I loved it. I always knew I was never good enough to be a football player so I never followed it up. I put all my energies into developing my appreciation of the analytical, tactical and psychological side of the game. I thought I was maybe missing out. But I never stopped."
At 23, he now looks back on a career in football that has included attaining coaching badges, working for Celtic, in Sweden and in Portugal and for the Scotland team. He is now director of sport at Stenhousemuir, being part of a strategy that seeks to revolutionise a club.
He started by simply compiling reports and sending them to clubs. He worked with Celtic before Mark Wotte, performance director at the Scottish Football Association, and Mick Oliver, chief scout for Craig Levein, looked at his dossiers and offered him a full-time job.
"When Gordon Strachan came in, Mark McGhee did his analysis and reports so, when my contract ended I left," he explains. "I did some work with John Park at Celtic during the transfer window."
His time with the football development manager of the Scottish champions was embraced by Rowan, who believes that he can brings aspects of the Celtic model to his role at Ochilview.
"The strategy of buying players, developing them and selling them on has worked well at Celtic and I believe that we can do the same on a smaller scale. We have to identify and develop talent. I am looking for players who have the potential to play at the highest level in Scotland," he says.
He has already instituted a system at Stenhousemuir that involves both collating and assessing information. This is so meticulous it includes the school reports of academy players.
He also works with Scott Booth, the Stenhousemuir manager, on analysis of both the Ochilview side and the opposition.
Players are given performance indicators that point to precise achievements and failings in matches. All matches are filmed and set-pieces and run of play are analysed for rate of success or failure.
"For example, a manager may have an idea about corner kicks and how they should be taken or defended. He can get trapped in the emotion of a game and not quite see how these theories are working out.
"We can give him precise evidence on what works and what doesn't. We are creating statistics on players and on situations and that can only help a coach."
The untold hours of watching football have given Rowan joy, satisfaction and ideas. "I always wonder why teams do not leave three players up the park when they are defending corner kicks.
"It is a 50-50 situation. If you win the defensive header then you are in a great position," he says. He argues that, at least, it would reduce the number of attackers in the box.
This sparks a series of observations on football. The most animated concern Red Bull Salzburg and Sergio Busquets. Players and sides are endlessly intriguing for Rowan as he examines how football is played and what trends are developing.
Busquets represents the importance of positional play. "Most people will watch Barcelona and delight in Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. I was always more interested in Busquets. He plays in the sort of role that does not get recognised.
"Everyone loves watching good players on the ball but I was always attracted to what was happening off the ball."
He points out the Barca holding midfielder's movement, particularly towards central defence, is integral to how the Catalan side plays. "If Busquets does not take up certain positions off the ball, then Barcelona cannot play the way they want."
And Red Bull Salzburg? "The way they play is incredible," he says of the Austrian champions, who thrashed Ajax 6-1 on aggregate in last season's Europa League.
"They press remorselessly," he says. "They are on to teams far up the park, forcing them to lose possession or play back to the goalkeeper who can only kick it long. Very interesting."
Brown will be presenting the results of his analysis on players, sides and set-ups for Herald Sport readers during the World Cup. So who does he think can win it?
"If you are looking for a dark horse, then I would opt for France. [Paul] Pogba and [Antoine] Griezmann could be influential and [Olivier] Giroud loves playing in the national team." France, too, have a negotiable group with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. "This could be a marvellous opportunity for them," he says.
As for the favourites, he opts for Spain. "They have an unbelievable depth of squad and they come into the tournament with a set style of play. Brazil have the individual quality but they do not have the cohesion," he says.
He is more intrigued by the style of Chile who are in a group with Spain, Australia and the Netherlands. "Once the most popular style was 4-2-3-1 but Chile are an excellent example of 5-3-2 with the two full-backs almost acting as wingers. This formation is also used by Holland but I do not rate their defence. I believe they are vulnerable and Chile can progress," he says.
Rowan complements his viewing by reading works that will improve his mindset. He is devouring The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters, the psychiatrist who was influential in the success of the British cycling team and who is now working with England at the World Cup.
"I am interested in coaching and managing but I think that can be difficult for someone like myself who has never played football at a high level. I have to find a way for players to listen to me and take on board my ideas," he says.
This is necessary if he is to achieve his personal goals. "I would love to coach a team that wins the Champions League," he says. "Then I could stop all those late nights analysing games."
The first is a dream. The second seems an impossibility.