Few managers can have seemed so embattled without even having taken a training session, but those who know Brown are adamant that he will not flinch.
“He’ll handle it,” said Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, as if the idea that Brown might be intimidated was absurd. He is very good technically in terms of coaching players and he also has a very good eye for a player as well. He knows his football.”
Brown’s allies were always likely to be vigorously supportive, but they present the image of a man who is misunderstood because his most prominent attributes are still thought to be his fearlessness and his commitment.
It is unlikely that the Dundee fans would have reacted with such affront if Brown had not been so emotionally charged when standing up to Charles Green last summer and trying to rouse a sense of indignation amongst the Rangers support. His managerial career consists of a doomed spell at Clyde, but his friends in the game talk encouragingly of his abilities as a coach and a scout.
“I’ve been taken aback by the reaction,” said Derek Ferguson, the former Rangers midfielder. “He’s been popular wherever he’s played because he wears his heart on his sleeve. Did his credibility take a hit with that speech outside Ibrox? That is the passion of the man. The bottom line is that he is a shrewd football operator. He’s not got a track record as a manager but neither did Peter Houston when he got the Dundee United job, nor did Ally McCoist or Neil Lennon when they got big jobs.”
Ferguson reminisces about the kind of player, like Brown, who would play even if they were carrying an injury. “John was only 25% fit for [the 1991] title decider against Aberdeen,” said Ferguson. “He had a real problem with his Achilles. He also didn’t have any cartilage left in his knees but he somehow still managed to play for a while.”
Management requires more than bull-headedness, but McCoist believes that his friend’s knowledge is under-appreciated. Walter Smith used to send Brown to scout European opposition for Rangers, and the club signed Carlos Cuellar, the Spanish defender, on Browns’ recommendation.