It seems old habits die hard for former Scotland manager Craig Brown.
The former national team manager spent the 1980s and 1990s assessing the strengths and weaknesses of opposition countries ahead of major tournament finals.
This month he will play the role of Tartan Army member cheering on the country at the European Championship finals but it has not stopped him from doing his homework on the challenge Steve Clarke and the class of 2021 face in the tournament against the Czech Republic, England and Croatia.
West Ham duo will be key for Czechs
Given his affinity for all things Scotland Brown is well placed to assess the challenges facing Clarke and his side starting with their opening game on June 14 against the
Brown said: “I haven’t looked at the whole tournament but I’ve keep a keen eye on Scotland’s group.
“Two of the best players for Davie Moyes at West Ham this season have been Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal and they will be key men for the Czech Republic head coach Jaroslav Silhavy.
“Soucek is a powerful, dangerous player while Coufal is a very clever attacking full back.
“The Czech Republic was in freefall for a while but Silhavy has come in and done well there. He’s relied on the two main clubs in the Czech Republic for players but it has worked for him.
“It felt as if we played the Czechs regularly in my time from the days of Antonin Panenka and his famous penalty for Czechoslovakia in the 1970s to the late 1990s when they had guys like Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborski and Vladimir Smicer.
“They have some star players still in their squad and Patrik Schick, who has played for Sampdoria and Roma and is now at Bayer Leverkusen, is a threat but I do think they are weak at the back. Tomas Kalas, one of their central defenders, plays for Bristol City and I don’t think that is at the level of some of our guys.
“I look at Andy Robertson at Liverpool, Kieran Tierney at Arsenal and Scott McTominay at Manchester United. They are not just established at those clubs but key players in the team.”
The big game the whole of Scotland will be looking forward to of course is the trip to Wembley on June 18 to face the Auld Enemy England.
Abundance of riches in the England squad
Gareth Southgate’s side are one of the favourites for the tournament – and with good reason as far as Brown is concerned.
But that does not mean he is ready to write off Scotland’s chances of a shock result, however.
He said: “What can you say about England? They thumped the Czechs in one of their qualifying games and midfield to front they have an abundance of riches. You look back through the years and they’ve always had a reliable number nine in their team.
“Harry Kane, if fit, is a team on his own and a man capable of turning a game by himself. They have weaknesses too but so many strengths, the deep resources available being perhaps the biggest.
“England, a nine times the size of Scotland in terms of population, should be better than us but I always back Scotland to rise to the occasion against them and I know the guys I’ve mentioned such as Tierney, Robertson, McTominay and John McGinn will not be overawed by the occasion.
“The players in the England squad know our guys and the threats in our team.
“The goalkeeper position is the one which I’d be worried about if I was an England fan and Jordan Pickford doesn’t excitement. But with Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford up front you are talking about a serious threat to any team.”
Modric remains key for Croatia
The group stage reaches its conclusion against Croatia on June 22 and Brown knows one man will be looking to make a big impression in what could be his swansong for his country.
The former Scotland boss said: “Croatia is the one team in our group which I’m not so knowledgeable about but it is clear Luka Modric still runs the show for them.
“He is 35 and this could be his last tournament so he will want to make a big impression. It’s interesting that Real Madrid don’t play him every week and it might be that he’ll be rested for some games for Croatia. As a Scotland fan I won’t be complaining if he sits our match out.
“I like Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan. He’s an excellent player in midfield for them but they are prone to unrest. Nikola Kalinic created a real fuss in 2018 when he refused to come on in the World Cup after being named among the substitutes.
“The sulking subs as I call them are prevalent in big tournaments and I find it a shocking state of affairs that a player would refuse to go on.”
Memories to last a lifetime for Scotland
Clarke and his players have spent the build-up to the tournament in Spain, Portugal and Middlesbrough and Brown has one piece of advice for the manager and the players ahead of the tournament – try to enjoy it.
He said: “You need to soak up as much of the experience as you can because I can tell you this much; as soon as the tournament is underway the days fly past. You play a game, train, study the opposition and before you know it the tournament is finished.
“As we know these opportunities have been in short supply for a long time.
“I count myself as hugely fortunate to have been at five major tournaments. I was lucky to be with Sir Alex Ferguson for the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 and he far more democratic than autocratic.
“I never saw the famous hairdryer in the games I worked with him at and he loved nothing better than sitting on the grass having meetings with the group discussing ideas. If anyone had a good set piece from their club training that they felt Scotland could use he encouraged them to speak up.
“He has this image of being intimidating but I can honestly say when he was with Scotland it was not like that. It is a misconception so many people have.
“I know the players will enjoy it and I imagine the fans will have a brilliant time. They have certainly waited long enough.
“The atmosphere within the group will be good and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. Everyone should have a good feeling heading into the tournament.”