FORMER Scotland manager Craig Brown was a compelling speaker with countless tales on his life in football at a special event in Fullarton Connexions, writes Stewart McConnell.

The biennial Faith ‘n Fitba night was organised through Sports Chaplaincy Scotland by Fullarton Church minister the Rev Neil Urquhart and drew around 70 people to the Irvine venue.

This was the first time the event had been held in the church building and Neil was encouraged with how it went.

He said: “We’ve had really good feedback on how it went, everyone seemed to enjoy it and we raised £1,300 for Sports Chaplaincy Scotland.”

The night began with a quiz, which was staggered over three parts and there was also a prize draw and three-course meal.

Mark Fleming of Sports Chaplaincy UK began the proceedings in earnest with a quick introduction, in which he spoke of his delight with his team’s 4-1 home victory against Dundee United. He revealed that there were now some 100 Chaplains working in Scottish football and argued that they merited more recognition.

We were then introduced to Inonge Siluka, the Glasgow City FC chaplain, who told how she had become involved with the football team after a major injury had ended her hockey career.

She had moved to Paisley from her original home in Zambia and was amazed at first with the lack of coverage women’s football had received.

However now it is being given more of a profile, especially with Scotland qualifying for the World Cup.

Craig spoke of his pride in the Scotland squad of 1998 who narrowly failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup, despite running defending champions Brazil close in the opening match at the Stade de France.

He also spoke of how he first got involved in the national team.

“I was working as a teacher at Craigie College at the time and got a call from Sir Alex Ferguson, who was then the Scotland caretaker, asking if I fancied an all-expenses paid trip to Mexico, although there would be a few games thrown in.

“That was the World Cup and I was asked to be Alex’s assistant.

“It was a great honour to be involved. I was eight years as assistant, mostly with Andy Roxburgh and then eight years as manager. We had a very good team.”

He recalled the 1998 World Cup when gap-toothed Craig Burley earned a booking in one match and team-mate Ally McCoist shouted: “You better not get another yellow card or you will be following your teeth into the dressing room.”

And he recalled how McCoist and fellow Ranger Stuart McCall had broken down religious barriers by asking to take up a place on offer for a Papal visit at the same World Cup.

Craig also spoke of his affection for the late great, Tommy Burns, who had looked after the Under-21s side for him at one point and told him Don Hutchison had to be switched to the main Scotland team straight away.

He did not disappoint and scored the winner for Scotland against England at Wembley.

Burns, he said was so dedicated to his work but was brilliant at mentoring players and helping make them stars of the future and was so obliging.

The ex-Scotland boss also spoke of the value of sports chaplaincy and how it was so vital for players to seek help on spiritual issues and other matters which a manager would not discuss.

This would help them in times of trouble and they could talk to someone who didn’t have the club agenda in the forefront of their minds.

Prestwick native Craig, who now lives in Aberdeen, had the audience in the palm of his hand for most of the night.