ON RangersTV supporters can watch in-depth one-to-ones with a number of the club’s greatest stars as they discuss their football careers and years at Ibrox.
Today, nine-in-a-row defender John Brown remembers his early years at Hamilton Academical and Dundee before his big move to Rangers in 1988.
JOHN ‘BOMBER’ Brown simply oozes Rangers.
A life-long fan he was signed by Graeme Souness and initially featured in midfield, but it was at the back beside Richard Gough where he really shone, proving to be a key figure at home and in Europe with his defensive qualities.
Brown arrived at Ibrox from Dundee in January 1988, after starting his senior career with Hamilton, and became an integral player for the following nine years.
It was in season 1992/93 that he truly shone, playing in 39 of 44 league games as well as in every Scottish Cup, League Cup and Champions League tie as Rangers clinched the Treble and were unbeaten in Europe.
After his playing career was over Bomber had a spell as a youth coach at Murray Park and he has also managed Clyde and Dundee.
Apps 278 (1988-1997) – Goals 18
Honours for Rangers
League (6) – 1988/89, 1989/90, 1990/91, 1991/92, 1992/93, 1993/94
Scottish Cups (3) – 1991/92, 1992/93, 1995/96
League Cups (3) – 1988/89, 1990/91, 1992/93
Teams Played For
Hamilton Academical, Dundee, Rangers
You started your senior career with Hamilton Academical. What are your memories from that time?
JB: “Probably the bunch of guys that I learned from, the experienced pros who were coming to the end of their careers.
“Bobby Graham, John Blackley, guys like that gave me a lot of encouragement.
“The one thing about it, and I was 17 I think, there was very little criticism and the senior guys were always praising you and working on the positives.
“That was a big thing at that time which took me on in my career.”
Can you attribute a lot of your success to these guys?
JB: “I think so and the coaches as well. It was Eric Smith who signed me and Davie McParland came along and then John Blackley would take over.
“They were always encouraging you to go out and express yourself and pass the ball. It’s something my father had put in us and he was always there to watch us.
“I think nowadays I see a lot of parents drop the kids off and not really spend time and watch them, it’s maybe a babysitting thing.
“Back then it was a real excitement for my father to watch me and my brother grow up and try to have a career.”
Did you get real encouragement from your family and did you just play football all the time?
JB: “Yeah, that’s all we did. Nowadays the boys have got computers and everything, but all we done was play football.
“When you look back at the amount of players who came out of the lower leagues to play in the top teams it’s no surprise because they were probably out on the street until it got dark and even then they would still be out there playing football.”
You started off predominantly as a defender, but you could play full-back and even left of midfield. What did you see as being your strongest position?
JB: “At that time I was just happy to go and play, the game is called football so go out and play.
“It wasn’t about positions and from an early age I played a number of positions. It was good because you could get an understanding for the roles and when I did go back to centre-half or full-back I knew what the midfield requirements were.
“You could understand the demands of different positions and that gave me good experience at an early age.
“At the end of my career with Rangers I was the left centre-half but I enjoyed all the positions.”
You moved to Dundee in 1984 and in your first season you scored against Rangers in a 1-0 Scottish Cup fourth round victory at Ibrox. Did that hurt?
JB: “No, because they were calling me all the Celtic names of the day! It was my job and I never thought Rangers would come in and sign me later on anyway.
“My job was to win with Dundee. The wages weren’t great so the bonuses were essential and that was a big part of it.
“But no, I thought Rangers and Celtic were the top two teams and if you are going to try to promote yourself you’ve got to do well against these teams.
“I was happy to get the goal, I know my family took a bit of stick at the time because they were still staying in Blantyre, but it gave me a lot of pleasure scoring against Rangers.”
How did it feel to knock Rangers out of the Scottish Cup that season?
JB: “At that time I think we only played Rangers twice a season, so it was big thing to play against them and score against them, especially if you have supported them.
“That day it was 1-0 and Ally McCoist got absolute pelters off the Rangers fans.
“But Ally was the one that was always there to miss the chances, and he took the brunt of it.
“It just shows how strong a character he is to come through that, but these were good memories and memories that made friendships early on with Coisty and Ian Durrant and boys like that.”
Then the following year on 23 November 1985 you scored a hat-trick against Rangers for Dundee in a league match.
JB: “Yeah, that was at Dens. Coisty got two goals and I got three, so I beat him for once as I got the match ball that day!
“I remember Tosh McKinlay got sent off after 20 minutes and the team just thought we might as well enjoy it and anything we got would be a bonus.
“It made everybody just relax and enjoy their football, and I was fortunate to get the three goals that day.”
Were you playing at the back on that occasion?
JB: “I played in midfield then and I enjoyed that spell when I started at Dundee.
“They played me in the middle of the park because I could get a few goals and later on I would move back to centre half.”
You’ve always been a Rangers fan so when Graeme Souness signed you in 1988, it must have been a dream come true.
JB: “It was great, probably the best feeling you can get, especially if you have supported a club.
“I never thought Graeme Souness would ever consider signing me, but I think the fact that we played against each other a number of times helped as he would get a couple of kicks at me and I would try to get him back too!
“He probably liked that the fact I didn’t accept was he was dishing it out and I would give him it back.
“Maybe that was part of the reason he signed me but it was the best days with the players we had and the trophies that we won.”
How did your move to Rangers come about?
JB: “We actually played at Dens on a Tuesday or a Wednesday night and Rangers beat Dundee 4-0, but I remember through frustration I had a kick out at Graeme.
“He was lying down and all the players ran around ready to put one on my chin. It was Graham Roberts and Terry Butcher then Graeme Souness got up and fended them off.
“He phoned me the next day and 10 days later I signed on a Friday afternoon.”
How did that feel?
JB: “Great, because two years previous to that Hearts turned me down on medical reasons, through operations I had in the past.
“So the fact that Rangers signed me and Graeme Souness, who I had admired from his Liverpool days and his career with Scotland, it was the best day of my football life.”
In your first season at Rangers you won the Premier Division and League Cup double. That was also the first year of the nine-in-a-row era which you were a part of. That must have been a terrific time to be at the club.
JB: “It was a great spell. People thought we were a social bunch that went out and drank and enjoyed each other’s company, but what they have to remember is that we won a lot of trophies.
“There was a lot of celebrating but at the right times, we never celebrated in defeat, but we were great mates.
“When you’ve got that, it is a winning formula when you go on the park.
“A lot of guys, and people go on about Laudrup and Gascoigne, but your Goughs, Munros, McCoists, Durrants and Ian Fergusons, these guys were fantastic.”
You can watch Bomber’s full interview here.