Brown fac­ing play-off crunch as Gala look to with­stand the Marr chal­lenge

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN FER­RIE

For­mer Scot­land cap­tain Brown caught in mid­dle as his old sides fight for pro­mo­tion

AS a two-footed foot­baller whose fa­ther Jock had played in goal for Scot­land, the 13-year-old Peter Brown’s life changed when he turned up at Marr Col­lege in the early 50s.

By the time he left he was such an ac­com­plished rugby player that the school’s FP side ac­cepted that, hav­ing al­ready been ap­proached by two se­nior clubs, he was des­tined for bet­ter things and he duly joined West of Scot­land.

A few years later, his ac­coun­tancy ca­reer hav­ing taken him to Galashiels, he was play­ing for Scot­land out of one of the most fa­mous clubs in the country, a some­times lock, some­times No.8 who kicked goals in the most un­ortho­dox fash­ion and had such an un­gainly gait that he was dubbed ‘the man on the coathanger’.

PC Brown, as he is known through­out rugby cir­cles, brother of the late, sim­i­larly mav­er­ick Gor­don ‘Broon frae Troon’, was to cap­tain his country to one of its great­est ever feats when they beat Eng­land home and away in the space of a week in 1971, the sec­ond of those games a spe­cial match mark­ing the cen­te­nary of the first ever in­ter­na­tional and the first one of only four vic­to­ries Scot­land have claimed at Twick­en­ham in the 106 years since it was opened.

Be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter that he was to fill ev­ery rugby-re­lated role at the Gala club from player to cap­tain, to coach, to se­lec­tor, to com­mit­tee man as his as­so­ci­a­tion with the Bor­der club in­ten­si­fied.

While he and Gor­don were play­ing in­ter­na­tional rugby their other brother John was mean­while play­ing reg­u­larly for the fam­ily’s home­town club.

Con­sider then PC’s dilemma to­day as he turns up at Stir­ling’s Bridge­haugh await­ing the ar­rival of John among three bus-loads of sup­port­ers who are head­ing up from Troon in the hope of watch­ing their up-and-com­ing first team rel­e­gate Gala from Scot­tish rugby’s top flight in the Premier­ship play-off.

“It’s a real prob­lem for me be­cause I’m an honorary life mem­ber of both clubs,” laughed Brown.

“It re­minds me of when Andy Cameron used to come on stage wear­ing a shirt that was half Rangers, half Celtic and I was think­ing I could maybe wear some­thing that was half the ma­roon of Gala and half the pur­ple and gold of Marr, but I think I might just wear blue. That should be suf­fi­ciently neu­tral.”

All de­liv­ered with his stan­dard bon­homie, but there is a se­ri­ous side to it all.

“I used to be a ball-boy for Marr FP and used to heat the pies for them,” he con­tin­ued.

“I twice guested for Marr, or­gan­ised an in­ter­na­tional team to open their new ground at Fullar­ton many, many years ago and when I was coach­ing Gala I took the whole Gala squad through to Troon to have a prac­tice, but Marr was such a ju­nior club I would never have thought there was the pos­si­bil­ity of them meet­ing one an­other in a com­pet­i­tive match of this im­por­tance.”

His sport­ing phi­los­o­phy was also formed in the town where his fa­ther passed on the sort of sound ad­vice to be ex­pected from one of three sib­lings who had played pro­fes­sional foot­ball, older brother Jim, re­mark­ably, rep­re­sent­ing the USA at the first ever foot­ball World Cup in 1930, while younger brother Tom played for Ip­swich.

“My fa­ther was a great sports­man who en­cour­aged us to play every­thing and had a fab­u­lous at­ti­tude telling you to take them on and show them how good you are... stick in ‘til you stick out, no mat­ter what sport we played,” he re­calls.

Yet it is half a cen­tury since Brown ar­rived in Galashiels and as well as his mag­nif­i­cent Scot­land ca­reer his most trea­sured sport­ing mem­o­ries in­clude win­ning three con­sec­u­tive Mel­rose Sev­ens in a ma­roon jer­sey and what was then a rare vic­tory over Gala’s fiercest ri­vals Haw­ick at their Mans­field Park strong­hold.

“I’m dyed-in-the-wool Gala and can’t un­der­stand a player spend­ing two years at Gala and then mov­ing on to Mel­rose,” he ob­served, by way of un­der­lin­ing his at­tach­ment.

On the face of it, though, up against a Marr team that has be­come used to win­ning in the first divi­sion this sea­son, the more se­nior club would look to be up against it just weeks af­ter their long-serv­ing coach Ge­orge Gra­ham left by mu­tual con­sent.

“Marr have won­der­ful backs but I think Gala have too much power for them and I would worry for Marr go­ing up into the Premier­ship be­cause the rise in stan­dard is con­sid­er­able, but then I wor­ried for them when they got into the first divi­sion for the same rea­son,” said Brown.

FLY­ING THE FLAG: Peter Brown, the for­mer Scot­land in­ter­na­tional, will have di­vided loy­al­ties this af­ter­noon

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