As national manager Craig Brown had seen and done it all, including leading Scotland to UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup final tournaments in 1996 and 1998. However, one of the ironies of his long and distinguished coaching career was that he had never taken a club into European competition. Until this season, that is.
Last December, Scottish Premier League side Motherwell FC were looking more like relegation candidates than European contenders as their early-season promise started to fade. Manager Jim Gannon left and in their hour of need the Lanarkshire team turned to Brown, now 70, and his assistant Archie Knox.
The fifth-place finish that followed took Motherwell into Europe and has enabled the Steelmen to dream of the UEFA Europa League play-offs. That, of course, depends on them seeing off the threat of Aalesunds FK, the opponents they held to a 1-1 draw in Norway in their third qualifying round first-leg tie on 29 July.
"My world for 16 and a half years was European football, because I was all over the continent with the Scotland team," Brown told UEFA.com. "But apart from the odd glimpses when I was assistant manager at Motherwell in the early 1970s, I had no experience of European club football on the management side.
"However, I hasten to add I was a member of the Dundee FC squad when we reached the semi-final of the European Champion Clubs' Cup [against AC Milan in 1962/63] and had 130-odd games on the bench as Scotland manager and the same again with the youths and the Under-21s. Archie Knox also had so many experiences from winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with Aberdeen through to his time at Rangers and Manchester United, so we've both travelled relatively well over the years."
The wisdom accrued down the decades makes Brown reluctant to look beyond Thursday's return visit of Aalesund, but with Europe's rich and famous waiting in the play-off pack should Motherwell progress, the former Clyde FC and Preston North End FC manager is relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against the continent's finest.
"Our objective would be the group stage," added Brown. "That would be a fantastic bonus for the club in terms of income and would allow us to supplement the squad which is very threadbare at the moment.
I'd love to please the fans by reaching the group stage and bringing some of the glamour clubs to Fir Park, but we still have a lot of work to do against Aalesund."
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