Kelly Brown buzzing after winging his way back to Glasgow Warriors
Former Scotland skipper feels the spirit of the Glasgow he left ten years ago is still there as he relishes new assistant coach role
The days of the “Killer Bs” may seem a bit distant now but at least one has made his way back to the Glasgow Warriors hive.
Kelly Brown was part of the famed back-row trio alongside John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie, who were mainstays of both Glasgow and Scotland a decade ago. All three spread their wings and headed to pastures new as Barclay enjoyed a long stint at Scarlets, Beattie roamed around France and Brown, the Borders boy and former Earlston High School, forged a decade-long home with Saracens in north London as player and coach.
The now 38-year-old has been tempted back to his homeland, which he represented 64 times, 14 as skipper, to take up a role as assistant to new head coach Danny Wilson, specialising in work on contact and lineout defence, getting his first taste of the new job in last month’s Edinburgh double header.
“It was sudden. I’d been speaking to Danny because I’d done a bit of stuff with Scotland over the past two or three years,” explained Brown. “So I’d got to know him and we’d speak every now and again to discuss ideas around contact and that sort of stuff.
“Then we had a couple of calls over the lockdown period to discuss things we were looking at, at our different clubs. And then I got a call from him and he said there was an opportunity and would I be keen? It’s a club I know and love and hard as it was to leave Saracens I was very excited about the opportunity to come back to Scotland.”
Brown has been hurt by the recent turmoil to engulf Sarries in the past year as a salary-cap breach led to the European superpower being relegated to the second-tier Championship as punishment. It came as a shock to the Scot who viewed the tawdry business as something alien to the culture and family atmosphere which captured his heart since his move south in 2010.
“I’ve got a lot of love for that club and I was definitely sad to leave,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of good friends and it’s been an amazing place to be for ten years. I was also a bit sad to be leaving because the opportunity they have now to build again, that’s an amazing opportunity. I’ve nothing but fond memories of my time there and it’s one of two clubs I love.
“The thing that amazed me the most when I went to Saracens was we never spoke about winning. We spoke about going and making memories and I thought that was a brilliant way to do it.”
The winning and the memories certainly followed and Brown was part of three Premiership titles and the 2015-16 European Champions Cup triumph.
“I know that ultimately professional sport is about winning but I just thought as a way to take all the pressure off the players it was an amazing way to do it and focus on,” he continued. “That changed over the years as the club has had success and they do speak about it a little bit more but I thought it was a great way to do it. Let’s just focus on making unbelievable memories and if you do that you win games.”
Brown is hoping to bring a bit of that back north with him and, after initially intending to forge on himself for a year with wife Emily and daughters Amber and Leena to follow later, the family has decided to make the move together.
“We’re settled,” said the former flanker/No 8. “When I got the call I had six or seven weeks to get up to Scotland and organise everything. That was fine because the plan was I’d come up and the family would follow about a year later.
“But after a week my kids said ‘we want to come with you, we don’t want to be down here if you’re not here’, so that started a mad sprint to find a house, sort out schools and everything. And we appear to have got it all done and the kids and my wife are happy. It’s been as smooth as it could be.”
A lot has changed at Glasgow since Brown left, particularly the move to Scotstoun and progression to a side good enough to win the Pro12 in 2015, but there is enough to still make it feel like a homecoming.
“There’s a couple of the players are still there, as is the kit man. When I was there I always thought it was a brilliant environment, and we maybe didn’t have the success, albeit in my final year I think we got to the play-offs in the league, so we were definitely climbing.
“I know that Sean [Lineen] and Shade [Munro] as the coaches then made a really good environment, and from what I’ve seen in spite of all the coaching changes over the years is that they’ve managed to keep a brilliant environment there.”
Now some actual rugby would be good as Glasgow await the Guinness Pro14 to confirm the start date of the new season (slated for the first weekend of October) and some fixtures to plan for.
“It is what it is,” said Brown. “There’s not a lot we can do about that. What is great is that we’re in, and we’re doing the pre-season, and we’re anticipating to start next season at some point in the next month or so.
“We get [coronavirus] tested at the start of every week and then after that pretty much everything has got to be socially distanced. Obviously on the training pitch we get a little bit closer, but all the coaches wear masks during all the sessions.
“Unfortunately now we can’t do any of the social sessions where you maybe meet up and have a chat over a coffee. But the boys are working hard, we’re going through the pre-season, and hopefully things will start to ease and we can play a game in the not-too-distant future.”
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