GRAEME BROWN does missionary work and he does so with an evangelical zeal. He makes no apology for it, either. Reminding people of Scottish football’s presence at the forefront of the game is too important for that.

As with most religious conversions, happenstance played its part.

When Brown moved into the Crosshill area of Glasgow in 2011, it was a stone’s roll away from Hampden Bowling Club.

Looking out from his new home he saw a captivating rose garden and picturesque clubhouse across the way. In February 2012, a letter came through his door saying the bowling club was at risk of closure due to dwindling numbers, emblazoned across its head were the words USE IT OR LOSE IT. “In big bold letters,” as Brown, who promptly signed up, recalls. More than eight years later, the 40-year-old has invested “more time than he would like to admit to” in a variety of roles at the club as he has sought its salvation as a bowling green and then its rebirth as the original home of another sport altogether.

When he first entered the timber-framed pavilion, he saw pictures on the wall: the Queen’s Park XI that won the first Scottish Cup, the inaugural Anglo-Scottish game between Wanderers and Queen’s Park in 1875, and a picture of the clubhouse from the time. The existing members told him he was standing on the site of the first Hampden Park. They had told others before, to scepticism and disbelief.

Brown recalls: “In the Christmas of 2015, I got fed up with people saying ‘no, it’s not Hampden’. I said ‘the bowling club knows it is, that has gone down through the generations’ and, basically, I went online to search.

“There were two references to the old Hampden Park, one said it was in the shadow of Hampden Terrace, that’s up the hill. The other said, the railway went through the middle of it but it wasn’t exactly clear which bit of it. I managed to find the Cathcart Railway logs, all the surveys that were done to build it were at the National Records of Scotland. I wrote to them and didn’t hear back for ages, then they came back and said ‘Graeme, we’ve found two maps’.”

A few days later he got confirmation that the members were right all along.

“I just fell in love with the story and I’ve spent a lot of time in the bowling club trying to keep it going. This is my community giveback. The voluntary side of life is important. I got sucked into the history side of it and when I found the maps I thought ‘this is different’. There are lots of people doing different things.”

A celebration to mark the 150th anniversary of the first international football match is being curated under the title Hampden Collection and he is writing a book. Where he finds the time to compose it is anyone’s guess.

“I really enjoy the Hampden collection stuff, it’s a proper challenge, it could take 10 years to get the recognition but at least you could point at it and say ‘that was all started over there’. Without the bowling club there would be no trace of the first Hampden. The history has already been lost once, it is important that it does not happen again.”

Brown’s most recent endeavour has been of a proselytising nature. Stumbling upon a poll on The Football History Boys twitter feed to find the greatest international side of all time, he noticed an anomaly: the absence of the Scotland team of the late-Victorian era.

Brown and his Hampden Collection colleague Gordon McPhee set about putting matters right by pulling together a team capable of going up against, among others, Cruyff, Neeskens, Van Basten, Zidane, Henry, Puskas and Hidegkuti.

The Scots responded by pulling out a performance to be proud of, negotiating a group containing 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 double winners France, 1988 European Championship winners Netherlands and Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s formidable Soviet side of 1985-89, knocking out West Germany (1954) and the Dutch Total Football revolutionaries of 1974-78 before eventually succumbing to the 1954 Hungary team in the semi-finals.

Yes, it was a bit of fun but that didn’t prevent a few raised eyebrows from some taking part in the poll who were baffled at the exit of Rinus Michels’ visionaries at the expense of a team of Victorian upstarts whose regular and only opponents were England, Ireland and Wales.

“Some were asking: ‘How is this team here? They only had to play three other nations.’ I think lots didn’t want them to win necessarily but what it did do was unite the Scottish behind them,” says Gareth Thomas, one half of The Football History Boys podcast, who conducted the poll.

Such views do the Scotland teams of that era an injustice.

The ‘Scotch Professors’ have come to be recognised as the first genuine scholars of the game; the men who exported passing football and professionalism to England, and beyond.

The individual characters Brown and McPhee selected were people of substance, too, not just brilliant footballers but men who would go on to have a lasting impact on the game for generations to come.

The team of the late 19th century lost just three times in a 20-year period and doled out ritual hammerings to England, beating them 7-2, 6-1 and 5-1 during the years between 1880 and 1882.

“It is a dynamite team,” said Brown. “Tom Vallance is the first Rangers president. He was 6ft 2ins, which was very unusual for a Victorian man. James Kelly is part of the Kelly dynasty at Celtic. When he came from Renton, he was one of the foundation stones at Celtic.

“Robert Gardiner was a Queen’s Park keeper and it was him and David Wotherspoon who organised the first international match in 1872 between Scotland and England. He was the one who was famously caught smoking his pipe in the goal because he was getting a bit bored.

“Andrew Watson was the world’s first black international footballer. England obviously claim Arthur Wharton, so right away they say ‘well, he’s the first professional’, as if that counts.

“Charles Campbell, although he ended up at Rangers, was Queen’s Park and Scottish captain, SFA president and he’s down as the guy that basically invented heading.

“JB Weir is a Queen’s Park man. He was nicknamed the Prince of Dribblers – they used to a do a 100-yard dribbling race – and he could do it in something like under 20 seconds. Try to run 100 yards in that time and it’s hard enough.”

Brown says that perhaps the greatest feat of the Scotch Professors was not measured by historical record but rather by geographical reach, and it was succinctly summed up by one anonymous Twitter user replying to a non-believer.

“Someone replied to the person saying: ‘go into any football museum in Italy or Spain or Brazil, and you will find a Scottish reference about how they were taught the game by Scotland and I thought ‘ooft, I don’t need to say anything’. You’ve hit that bang on the head.”

By the end, Brown and McPhee’s efforts did Gardiner and Wotherspoon proud, not only did Scotland finish third overall, they brought some converts with them as Ben Jones, the other half of TFHB, who co-authored a recent book (Football’s 50 Most Important Moments) with Thomas, points out.

“Fortunately, a lot of our followers are quite big into their sport history and as soon as people started tweeting us about the Scotch Professors I think they started to realise that they were a great side and they found out more about how they introduced the passing game, how they really influenced a lot of football that was to come afterwards. I think as they realised how influential they were, they started to get more votes from neutrals.”

Brown will continue preaching to the heretics for as long as it takes.