Ahead of this Friday’s match at Dens against Hamilton Accies, we profile and man who played for both clubs and went on to manage Dundee.
John Brown was a wonderful player for Dundee who turned in a number of memorable performances for The Dee in his four years at Dens in the mid eighties and playing primarily as a midfielder, he contributed thirty-nine goals in 135 appearances, giving the Dark Blues some terrific memories before returning for a spell as manager in 2013.
Born in Stirling midway through Dundee’s League Championship winning season, Brown started his footballing education at St. Mirren Boys’ Club and signed for Hamilton Academical in 1979 with Rangers, St. Mirren, Newcastle and Carlisle all watching his progress.
He spent five years at Douglas Park under five different managers and as a part-time player, worked the same time as a fitter. He put in a number of fine performances for The Accies, including a hat-trick against Berwick Rangers while playing at left-back and this alerted a posse of clubs to his potential.
Amongst those watching was Dundee manager Archie Knox who in his first pre season with the club was giving cause for optimism to the Dundee support with a clutch of summer signings. Knox was the first person to put a concrete offer in for Brown and he was on his way to Dens for his first crack at full-time football when the Dark Blues shelled out £40,000 for his signature.
Brown was signed as a defender but he was soon turning in tenacious, attacking displays for The Dee from midfield. He made his debut at home to Hibs on August 18th 1984 and scored his first Dundee goal eleven days later against Kilmarnock in the Skol Cup but it was his next goal in Dundee colours that would turn him into an instant hero.
Without a league win to their name so far that season Dundee went into the derby at Tannadice on September 8th more in hope than in expectation but in a remarkable match emerged as 4-3 winners with John netting the winner. Three times Dundee took the lead through McWilliams, McKinlay and Harris only for United to level but with fourteen minutes remaining, Brown bulleted a header past Billy Thomson for the winner.
The key to success had been in midfield as Knox’s new boys worked a treat where the speedy Rafferty complimented Connor’s craft and the tackling and surging runs of Brown with his powerful shooting and heading ability made him a constant threat.
Nicknamed ‘Bomber’, Brown settled in Carnoustie and his never-say-die attitude and no mean skill made him a firm favourite. In derbies Brown would be on the winning side on five further occasions, including the Forfarshire Cup Final in 1985, where he got the first in a 2-0 win as Dundee lifted the trophy for the first time in fourteen years.
In 1987 Brown put in a tremendous performance in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United at Tynecastle but it was to no avail as The Arabs progressed to the Final. United won the match 3-2 but it came after Billy Thomson broke Dundee hearts when he saved two magnificent late John Brown free kicks which could have forced a replay or even a victory.
His best performances however usually came against the club he had supported as a boy, Rangers and he was instrumental in Dundee victories over the Light Blues on no fewer than six occasions, hitting the winner three times.
In February 1985, Brown hit the only goal of the game to memorably knock Rangers out of the Scottish Cup fourth round at Ibrox and then nine months later went one better (or is that three better?) when he hit a hat-trick against Rangers in the league.
On November 23rd 1985, Dundee recorded a sensational 3-2 win at Dens to give them their fourth successive win in a six game unbeaten run against Rangers. Dundee’s win was all the more remarkable considering that they were down to ten men after seventeen minutes when Tosh McKinlay was red carded for a trip on Ted McMinn but a brilliant individual performance from Bomber made sure the points stayed at Dens.
His second goal had come direct from a free kick while his third came from the spot but the first, which he netted after leaving a trail of Rangers defenders in his wake, would be long remembered by the fans. In an era today where every top flight match is filmed, it is a tragedy that that goal and win are lost to posterity with no television cameras at Dens that day.
Brown scored the winner again in a 1-0 league win over the Rangers at Dens in September 1986 and the Govan giants don’t forget such things and signed him for £350,000 in early 1988. His departure came as a huge disappointment to the Dundee support and not just because he had filled in so well as a centre-half since the injury to Jim Duffy.
At Ibrox he would go on to win six league titles, three Scottish Cups and three League Cups but his eighteen goals for the Glasgow club in eleven years would be less than half of what he managed for Dundee in four.
After hanging up his boots, Brown would go on to become the coach of the Rangers Under-17 squad and bring through the likes of current Scottish internationalists Alan McGregor, Alan Hutton, Charlie Adam and Chris Burke. He would also later coach the Rangers reserve side before taking on his first managerial job at Clyde in 2008 before returning to Ibrox last year to do some scouting for Gers’ boss Ally McCoist.
In February 2013 Brown was appointed as Dundee manager on an interim basis amd after the Dark Blues put in a number of impressive displays as they made a fight of staying up, Brown was given the job on a permanent basis before the season ended.
Brown lead Dundee to the top of the SPFL Championship in an ultimately successful title winning campaign but left in February after a year in the job when the promotion push had stuttered.
Brown was a great player who gave his all in a Dark Blue shirt and was among the nominees for the Dundee FC 2013 Hall of Fame.
League: 111 + 3 subs, 31 goals
Scottish Cup: 11 + 1 sub, 6 goals
League Cup: 9, 2 goals
Totals: 135, 39 goals
P W D L GF GA GD Win %
39 18 8 13 58 41 +17 46.15