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Celtic in crisis.. Two hours that sealed the fate of Jock Brown; FANS' JOY AS HATED GM QUITS.

IT was business as usual for Jock Brown as he sat down with boss Fergus McCann for their weekly 10- minute briefing late on Friday afternoon.

Two hours later, he walked out of Parkhead after realising he had no choice but to quit his six-figure post as Celtic's general manager of football operations.

Brown told his boss he wanted time to sleep on his "offer" to resign and returned to his home in Hamilton.

From there, he rang Celtic coach Dr Jozef Venglos to tell him what was happening.

Brown rose early on Saturday morning to tell McCann he'd agreed to step down after just 502 days in the hot seat.

When news of his resignation was announced at Parkhead at 1.30pm on Saturday, the club's sponsors and corporate guests sat unaware in the stadium's Walfrid restaurant.

When the news came on the TV, diners - including Lisbon Lion Tommy Gemmell - clapped and cheered.

Brown did not take his seat in the director's box at Saturday's game against Dundee and extra security guards drafted in to protect him from the threat of violence from fans were stood down when his resignation was announced.

Fans who called for his head after the Hoops were dumped out of the UEFA Cup in Zurich on Tuesday night then celebrated throughout the 6- 1 demolition of Dundee.

The seeds of Brown's departure were sown days earlier when a secret report on him landed on McCann's desk.

The hard-hitting dossier - described as a "communications audit" - was undertaken by a top PR firm and suggested Brown arranged "clear the air" meetings with the media.

Staff at Barkers PR had contacted leading Scottish business figures and Press to seek their views on Brown.

McCann read the report last week and was considering how he could salvage the situation.

But Tuesday night's disastrous defeat in Zurich and the protests by fans in Switzerland and at Prestwick Airport where Brown was given a police guard, were to force his hand.

Then, on Friday morning, one of the people interviewed in the report, told a senior member of staff that the situation was now irretrievable.

He asked the staff member to tell McCann: "Jock Brown is completely washed up in the eyes of the supporters.

"He is washed up in the eyes of the 60,000 people who come to Celtic Park on a Saturday.

"I thought the situation was saveable until mid-week, but it is not."

The source added: "You could sense a great deal of militancy among the people coming back from Switzerland on Tuesday. There was talk of some kind of demo or boycott.

"The European result, the terrible time at Prestwick and struggling league form - none of these were helping the club with a stock-market listing and McCann's main concern has always been the bottom line."

He added: "Jock Brown could not cut it in that job. He was there to look after contracts but he could not even cut a deal with Mark Burchill."

That afternoon, Brown met with McCann and a third ''mystery'' man supposedly for a routine briefing on club affairs.

No-one else knows exactly what was said behind closed doors. Brown refuses to go into detail or give his reasons for quitting.

But a major factor was undoubtedly fan power.

Under-fire Brown had run the gauntlet of Celtic supporters from the day he arrived on June 23, 1997.

And at yesterday's Parkhead press conference, Brown inadvertently acknowledged the part fans played in his downfall, saying: "The supporters have made the club what it is and I know they'll make it better."
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Author:Hardaker, Paul
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 9, 1998
Words:599
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