A top football manager, but an even better human being. 

That’s how Derek McInnes will remember Craig Brown after his sad passing this week. 

The former Scotland boss died after a short illness aged 82 on Monday. The footballing community has been mourning one of the greatest characters, coaches, and mentors to emerge from these shores. 

McInnes first encountered Brown fairly early in his playing career. He maintained his relationship with him ever since, becoming close with him at Aberdeen in their respective roles. 

Brown’s enthusiasm for life and football is something McInnes admired greatly, and he admits the tributes that have been paid since his death have been very touching. Although, managing well into his 70s like Brown does not appeal to the Kilmarnock boss. 

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“Craig was always very supportive,” the 51-year-old reflected. “I remember doing my B Licence here at Largs when I was 21. But I was also a runner when I was at Morton and I used to come here during the close season – back when the close season lasted three months. It helped to keep my fitness up. 

“I got to know Craig and the guys like Andy Roxburgh, Archie (Knox), Walter (Smith), Dick Campbell and I could see him work close hand. I could see how organised he was, and how good the set up they had with all these top players getting put through their badges. 

“He was always very supportive of every manager. Everyone got the benefit of being in his company. 

“When I was at St Johnstone I came across him a few times and played against him. He was always very engaging, but I got to know him a lot more personally when I took over at Aberdeen and he was on the board. 

“It was good for me having someone like him on the board and things went pretty well. He was always supportive, even with my wife and kids, he was always attentive when they were at games and they loved being around him, telling all the stories. 

“Do I see myself as a manager at 73? Not really, and I don’t really want to imagine it. But he just loved it. He had a real zest for life with his life in Troon and in Aberdeen. 

“He had that old-fashioned quality about doing the right thing, never letting anyone down, being there for people. He was so genuine." 

McInnes also revealed that he’s been in contact with Brown’s son to pass on his condolences, as he praised his old friend as an “innovator” of the Scottish game. 

“It’s sad when you lose someone and my thoughts are with his family. I’ve reached out to his son John. They have to deal with the loss of their father and grandfather, but for all of us in football, it’s also a sad loss. 

“I think Craig would have been pleased with some of the endorsements and tributes he’s received. They have been really fitting – and well deserved. 

“I thought he was a real innovator who was important for the development of players and coaching education. He was a huge driver in all of that and it shouldn’t be underplayed. As for his achievements as a national manager, I think they’ve always been acknowledged. Perhaps not at the time, but certainly after the first couple of times we failed to qualify for major tournaments. 

“He did a magnificent job. He had such a huge influence on so many players who came under his tutelage. His impact was huge on so many people and on Scottish football. The tributes have been nice to see. 

“People enjoyed being around him, whether it was players, coaches, or the media. The dressing room humour never left him. He loved the craic, telling and hearing funny stories, he was such great company. 

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“It was a brilliant move from Aberdeen to take him on to the board. Everyone liked him. When I first went into the club the staff loved him and Archie and the club recognised he still had a role to play. 

“He’d go at the drop of a hat to a function, he’d mix with supporters, for all he did in the game, he’d still speak to everybody and anybody. 

“He was happy to give his time and it always ended up in a laugh and a joke. That’s a great quality.  

“Good or bad results, he was always the same. Management is not a bed of roses and you have to take criticism that comes your way. But he superseded all of that by the way he was as a person.”