With A Toothpick In His Mouth And Football In His Heart
The second player in our series of “Remembering…” articles, discussing the lives of Celtic players many people may not have heard of, focuses on a man named John Brown. Born in Dysart, Fife, sometime in the early 1890’s (an estimate), John was another example of a man who would spend many of his early days down a coal pit.
Starting off his football career in 1906, with sides Clackmannan Juniors and Hearts O’Beath, John would move to Alloa a year later before joining Falkirk in 1909. On the 7th June 2011, after impressing in his spells at previous clubs, Brown would sign for Celtic.
He was brought in by the club, and manager Willie Maley, in an attempt to build a squad for the future as the team who had won an incredible six titles in a row (between 1905 and 1910) were ageing, and their powers were, sadly, beginning to wane with them. A winger by trade, Patsy Gallagher (one of the greatest Celts of all time) would later go on to describe John as being “fast and clever on the ball, a fine shot and most accurate in his crossing”, and yet “the most in and out player I ever saw”.
Making his debut against Airdrie on the 15th August 1911, John would score one of three goals that day as Celtic ran out 3-0 victors. Playing primarily at outside-left, Brown stood a little under six feet in height, and was notorious for playing with a toothpick in his mouth.
John set up each of Jimmy Quinn’s three goals in the 1912 “New Year’s Day” defeat of Rangers, and won a Scottish Cup winners medal later that year, as Celtic won the trophy for the eighth time, and the Hoops beat Clyde 2-0 at Ibrox Park, thanks to goals from Jimmy McMenemy and the afore mentioned Patsy Gallagher, which John set up. In the semi final against Hearts, also played at Ibrox, John scored one of the Hoops goals in a 3-0 victory.
John would go on to feature forty seven times in total for Celtic Football Club, scoring ten goals. This is a respectable figure for any player. Undoubtedly, Brown possessed a skill for football. However, his lack of consistency was an issue whilst at Celtic Park, and this resulted in his loan and eventual transfer to English side Chelsea in 1913.
With the outbreak of the First World War, John would see battle first hand, and despite featuring for a Royal Navy side in 1916, he was soon sent home injured in 1917. He would recover though, in time, and go on to play for Raith Rovers, Dunfermline, Falkirk (again), Clackmannan, and Lochgelly United. He would spend a short time as manager of Lochgelly in the early-mid twenties, before becoming a masseur and trainer at Dundee in the 1930’s. He also owned a confectionary shop in Glencraig in his later life.
John Brown died on the 7th December, 1943. However, in the history books of Celtic Football Club and Scottish Football as a whole, his memory will never die.