The grandson and namesake of former Scotland manager Craig Brown has set his sights on a future in professional football after graduating from the University of Stirling.
Craig – one of around 2,300 students to graduate from Stirling this summer – has enjoyed a successful spell with the University’s men’s first team, captaining the Lowland League side in the 2020/21 season, scoring in the Scottish Cup, and netting the goal which won the students the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Premier North title in 2019/20.
Craig celebrates with his grandfather
After the Lowland League was suspended due to COVID-19, the dynamic midfielder joined Elgin City on loan until the end of the season and had a trial with Premiership side Livingston before signing a deal with Montrose in League One – becoming the latest in a long line of University of Stirling footballers to be recruited to the professional ranks.
Craig, 22, from Troon, Ayrshire, graduates with a BA (Hons) Sport Business Management and has already received a job offer on an Edinburgh-based graduate scheme.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted to be graduating from the University of Stirling – however, it is a bittersweet moment as I’ve had the best four years of my life here – it’s been enjoyable, successful and rewarding. The football scholarship has benefitted me greatly – and I would encourage any young footballer to seize the opportunity to come here to combine their sporting ambitions with their academic studies.
“I have received great support during my time at Stirling. As a sports scholar, we have access to excellent facilities and coaching, as well as a flexibility and understanding that enables us to succeed in our academic studies while negotiating a busy training and competition schedule. The club’s Head Coach Chris Geddes, Assistant Mark Adams and the University’s teaching staff have been incredibly supportive to me during my time here.
“I am also really grateful to my family for their support – primarily my mum and dad but also my grandpa and uncle too. They are all very important in terms of keeping me grounded and giving me encouragement when I need it. My dad, grandpa and uncle are footballing guys and give me good advice because they’ve had experience in football – it’s good to hear the stories they have.
“They are delighted that I chose to come to the University of Stirling and that I’m now graduating. From speaking with them, they’re not sure I would have made the same jump in terms of my football career if I had chosen to go elsewhere – they are happy and grateful, like I am, that I’ve had the opportunity to come here and progress.”
Craig comes from a footballing family with his grandfather Scotland manager between 1993 and 2001 – the longest tenure of any Scotland manager and leading them to Euro 1996 and World Cup 1998. In addition, his uncle currently works for the Scottish Football Association. However, while Craig admits he takes inspiration from his grandfather’s success, he insists he wants to make his own name within the game – and is eagerly anticipating joining up with Montrose.
He said: “People often assume that it was my grandpa that got me into football – but it actually came from me, and also my mum – I always wanted to be with a ball, to be honest.
“I am inspired and proud of what my grandpa has achieved in the game – but I want to make my own way in football. I would like to think that, if I keep focused and work hard, I could maybe equal or even surpass his achievements in the sport. That’s my goal – I don’t know if it’ll happen, but it is what I’m aiming for.”
Speaking about his grandson, Craig Brown Sr., said: “I don’t think I could overestimate the influence the University of Stirling has had on my grandson. He has had a wonderful experience there in all respects, educationally, of course, and in the sporting context, they’ve looked after him wonderfully well.”
Craig with his grandfather and father, Hugh
Asked about his highlights during his time at the University, Craig Jr. says handing in his dissertation was a proud moment – only bettered by his 88th-minute winner against Nottingham Trent University which won the BUCS Premier North for the University side. He is also delighted to have had the opportunity to play and score in both the Lowland League and Scottish Cup.
“I’ve grown up watching the Scottish Cup on television – so to be able to say I’ve played and scored in the competition for the University is something I am very proud of,” he said. “The experience of playing at that level has been invaluable in terms of shaping me as a player.”
Craig played 11 games for Elgin while on loan last season and his impressive performances have earned him a permanent deal with Montrose, which finished fourth in League One last season but narrowly lost out in the Championship play-off semi-final to Greenock Morton. He is the latest in a line of former University players to join the Scottish Professional Football League – following Blair Lyons (Partick Thistle, Montrose), Lewis Hunter (Annan Athletic, East Fife, Albion Rovers), Angus Mailer (Elgin City), and Rory MacEwan (Elgin City) in recent years.
Craig added: “The coaching here is fantastic and I think youth players in academies across the UK should know about the opportunities available here at Stirling. It’s not just a University that plays football – but it is a place where you can develop and step up to professional level. To anyone thinking of coming to Stirling for a football scholarship, I would always advise them to jump at the chance – it’s been brilliant for me.
“I am excited about what’s to come and looking forward to the next challenge.”
Visit the University’s website for more information on performance sports, or the University of Stirling Football Club website for details on the men’s first team.