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The `bloody marvel' has earned his right to stand with the best.

THE most respected manager in Scottish football right now is Craig Brown.

The critics who carped when he took over as national coach in the winter of `93 have long since been silenced.

Quietly, mannerly, articulately and quite self-effacingly he has created a team spirit which is the envy of many a club manager, and proved strong enough to qualify for the finals of Euro 96 and the beckoning World Cup Finals.

Not so long ago I was discussing the state of our game with Jim Baxter, without argument the most talented midfielder we've ever had.

He said: ``I don't know how Craig does it. When you look at the players he has and compare them with the other countries he's a bloody marvel!''

The explosion of foreign players in Scottish League football has been a horrendous handicap to Brown.

When you consider Rangers, a club which used to supply most of the national side, fielded just two Scots born players on a number of occasions during the past season, it surely spells out the problems he has had to face in team building.

To make up his squad of 22 which flew to their retreat in St. Remy de Provence on Friday, the Scotland coach included Tosh McKinlay, Darren Jackson, Simon Donnelly, Scott Booth and Gordon Durie, who were not first team regulars throughout the season.

But he knew all of them had the attitude, dedication and spirit he required.

He has no prima donnas in his squad, and he doesn't seek to create them. Time served pros like Colin Hendry, Tom Boyd, Colin Calderwood, John Collins and Kevin Gallacher have responded readily to the Brown teachings and have set the standards which younger players accept.

Brown has no dillusions of granduer. He knows he doesn't have the player depth to win the World Cup and accepts the limitatins opposed upon him, particularly in attack where his options are almost negligable.

What he does have is the trust of his players, their belief in each other, and the determination to die for the jersey.

The ``Braveheart'' spirit is very evident.

To qualify for the second round will be the Scotland success story, as they have failed to do so in seven previous attempts.

Second place in their group of Brazil, Norway and Morocco would certainly do nicely.

Norway, their second tie on June 16th in Bordeaux, will be the key match.

Brazil on Wednesday is the show game.

Morocco on June 23rd is when we'll find out whether we Scots are about to make a wee bit of history!
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Verdict, ALLAN HERRON
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jun 7, 1998
Previous Article:My boys are superfit and raring to go; Brown: He's taken us there on the quiet ... and always with a smile.
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