Craig Brown: It was sod's law that just after not picking Graham Alexander for Scotland, I was his manager at Preston!
Former Motherwell manager Craig Brown has revealed how his working relationship with current incumbent Graham Alexander improved immeasurably after a worrying start.
Brown, 80, who bossed ’Well in the 2009-10 season, managed Preston North End from 2002 to 2004, a club Alexander served with distinction as a player between 1999 and 2007 and again in 2011-12, before a short stint as caretaker boss at Deepdale.
“The embarrassing situation was this,” Brown told the Times and Speaker when remembering the period when he’d just taken over Preston 19 years ago.
"Davie Moyes was the manager at Preston before me – he had put a word in for me to get the Preston job when he went to Everton.
"He said Preston had a right back he thought was eligible for Scotland (Coventry-born Alexander). He said he was definitely good enough.
"I went down to see Alexander in a game at Crystal Palace and it wasn’t his best game. We were playing (Craig) Burley at right back for Scotland, I think, and I decided not to pick Graham.
"It’s sod’s law, because the next thing I go to Preston to be the manager and there he (Alexander) was in the dressing room!
"I think Moysie had told him that he had recommended him and I hadn’t picked him. So I thought: ‘Crikey, he’ll not be too delighted to see me coming in here’.
"But Alexander was outstanding at right back and the support I got from him was exceptional, even though I didn’t pick him for the Scottish team. There was no resentment, there were no hard feelings.
"He was a top pro in every respect.
"If he wants Motherwell to train hard and conscientiously, he’s not asking them to do anything he didn’t do himself because he was fantastic every day.
"He had a right good system. He took all the penalty kicks and I can only remember him missing one in all the time that I remember him.
"He took them brilliantly. He practised very conscientiously.”
Brown's spell at Deepdale also saw him forge a good bond with current ’Well assistant manager Chris Lucketti, a Preston player between 2001 and 2006.
The ex-Scotland boss added: "Both Alexander and Lucketti are great guys, I think.
“Lucketti was the main man. He was Moyes’ most expensive signing from Bury.
"At that time – we’re talking 20 years ago – for Preston to pay £750,000 (from Huddersfield Town) for a defender, was a lot. Lucketti was immense, he was half a team himself.
"For presence and stature, he took some beating.
"There is no praise too high for the two of these guys (Alexander and Lucketti). When they came to Motherwell, I sent them a message saying: ‘All the best’ and they couldn’t be more courteous.
"They won’t call me Craig. I get annoyed, they call me gaffer. I said: ‘I’m not gaffer any more’.
"Lucketti keeps saying; ‘Respect, respect’. I’m not looking for respect, I’d just rather be their friend than their gaffer.”
Brown thinks the influence of Alexander, 49, has rubbed off superbly on his Motherwell troops, whose 27-point haul from Scottish Premiership matches since Alexander took over in January is only bettered by Rangers (31 points) and Celtic (30 points).
"He’s got a hard work ethic,” Brown said. “The only slight hiccup he’s had is that he’s fallen out with referees too much and I can understand.
"I do think he’s probably used to a better standard because they’re full-time in England.
"I didn’t like the referees in England, to be fair, but they’re full-time officials down there and probably he’s been disappointed in some of the decisions."
Alexander’s playing career ended up spanning 24 years, starting at Scunthorpe United in 1988 and ending at Preston in 2012. He also won 40 Scotland caps between 2002 and 2009, serving under permanent managers Berti Vogts, Walter Smith, Alex McLeish and George Burley.
Speaking of Alexander’s attributes on the field, Brown added: “He was an all-round competent player. He could do what every good player does.
"Some players can only tackle or can pass or head the ball. He had every attribute you would want.
"I thought at right back he was doing away well. But in midfield (where Alexander also played during his career) you’re expected to stop the opposition and to create yourself.
"And he had the capability both to defend and also be very creative.
"His passing was terrific. He kicked a ball beautifully Alexander, with both feet, particularly the right.
"You would put him as a model player.
"I’ll be honest, back then I didn’t think along the lines that Alexander would be a really good manager himself one day.
"When I was at Aberdeen as manager (between 2010 and 2013), he and Lucketti were the management team at Fleetwood Town and they asked me to come down and take the job as director of football.
"I found that quite a flattering invitation. I went down and I met the chairman at Fleetwood and he was a smashing guy, Andy Pilley.
"He took Fleetwood from nowhere to where they are now.
"If they like you and want you to go and work for them, it makes you like them, if you know what I mean.”