|Euro 2020 qualifying: Russia v Scotland|
|Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow Date: Thursday, 10 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website|
Nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Scotland manager was escorted on to a plane in Moscow as a prisoner.
As he prepares to return to Russia, this time to support the national side, Craig Brown remembers the country fondly, despite his apparently dramatic exit.
Brown had been on a three-day recce to prepare for a Euro 96 qualifier, along with the Scottish FA’s then head of security Willie McDougall.
On their return, the head of the Russian Football Federation insisted the duo jump the queue for the flight, much to the ire of the wife of a Russian diplomat who challenged their ‘VIP’ status.
The response of McDougall would later result in much hilarity as he stated: “Glasgow Police madam, and this is my prisoner”.
“She took two steps back and let us on to the plane ahead of her,” Brown recalls with a chuckle.
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‘A Scottish referee would have cancelled it’
One month on, Scotland held their hosts to a goalless draw on a frozen Moscow pitch to seal a European Championship place. The teams had shared a goal apiece at Hampden earlier in the campaign, with Russia going on to top the group three points ahead of Brown’s side.
“My main memory of Russia was how cold it was,” the 79-year-old explains. “It was quite an ordeal for the lads to play on such an unfamiliar surface because in Scotland I think a referee would have cancelled it. If you fall on that hard, bumpy ground it’s a risk.
“Although the pitch was frozen, we were given a very warm welcome.”
While this week’s Euro 2020 qualifying trip will be more tolerable weather-wise, Brown expects a tough test against a team that came from behind to win at Hampden in September.
“If Scotland don’t lose the game it will be a very good result,” he explained, outlining the Russian’s “orthodox” set up and typically eastern European direct style of play.
Brown is proud that his 1995 side were able to match the likes of Andrei Kanchelskis, Valery Karpin and Viktor Onopko in the “famous Russian” team and he expects last year’s World Cup quarter-finalists to be just as “clever” this time.
“Steve Clarke is a very switched-on guy and a good tactician, so you can be sure he’ll have tried to identify Russian weaknesses, but the first priority is not to lose a game, especially an away game,” says Brown.
“I look forward to a not too defensive, but a careful and well structured team. If every player plays to their capability then we’ve a chance to get at least a draw, but it won’t be easy.”
‘It’s never as easy as supporters think’
Scotland’s hopes of automatic qualification are all but over but there is a pot three seeding to protect and a play-off semi-final to prepare for.
San Marino, bottom of the Fifa rankings and without a goal in over two years, are at Hampden three days after the match at the Luzhniki Stadium.
“Against San Marino we should have a lot of the game, a lot of the ball, and we have to break them down,” Brown adds.
“It’s never as easy as supporters think as every international side has capability and sometimes have very good players. We found that out recently against Israel, we lost over there. That said, I’m very confident of a resounding victory.”
Brown, who managed the national side from 1993-2001, will be travelling with Scotland this week but insisted he “wouldn’t presume” to give current boss Clarke advice.
“I used to hate it when I was a manager when people would advise you on players or selection,” he said of his 70-game stint in charge. “If you did want help, and I took it from club managers, I would phone them to see how their players were playing, where they’d best fit in my team.
“If Steve asked me I’d be happy to chat to him but I’d never offer any opinion and I don’t think he needs that. It’s a great job but I’m my age and I’m very glad to have managed them for so long. So while I’m envious, I’ve no grudge, I’m the strongest Tartan Army supporter you’ll get.”