ALAN BROWN might be the new head coach at Dundee High next season, but he is an old hand around the club having played for the Mayfield side with distinction for 18 years, before hanging up his boots and taking his first steps into the next phase of his rugby career with Strathmore during the summer of 2018.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of club rugby in Scotland at the moment, not least related to whether the current season will be able to run to a finish, or be cut-short with most teams still having games to play due to the Covid-19 crisis (both scenarios would mean relegation from National One for Dundee), or indeed be declared null-and void (which would mean a reprieve for the Mayfield men). What will be, will be, but at least Dundee can look ahead to 2020-21 season knowing that they have a popular and respected character guiding the team through what could very well be uncharted waters.
With Colin Sangster, who has split himself between head coach and director of rugby duties for the last five years stepping back from the former role to concentrate on the latter, the club believes that it now has a management structure in place to not only bounce back immediately from a difficult 2019-20 campaign, but also build longer-term towards the stated aim of being a centre of rugby excellence in Scotland’s fourth biggest population base.
“Going forward into next season, Colin will head up all the development of coaches and coaching at the two junior sections – Dundee Eagles P1 to P7, and Dundee Rugby Juniors S1 to under-18s – plus the senior set-ups at Dundee High Rugby and Dundee Morgan,” said President Gerry Tosh. “His post is the most important for the development of rugby in Dundee.
“We also have great pleasure in welcoming old boy Alan Brown back as 1st XV coach after two successful years as head coach at Strathmore. We are looking forward to working with a charismatic club favourite to take things forward. Rugby is changing in Dundee and these two great appointments will take us forward.”
It will help that Sangster and Brown have known each other for a number of years so have a fair idea of what to expect from each other. “I was needing to step back from coaching the 1st XV and when we looked around to see who might become the next head coach Alan was the obvious candidate who stood out to us,” said Sangster.
“He has a great history with the club, had successes as a player here and has learnt a lot about coaching and man-management over the last two seasons at Strathmore. Alan is a great character, he is energetic and I think he can be a talisman for the club as the head coach, just as he was as a player.
“He will learn as he goes along and he will bring a fresh approach to things as we reinvigorate the club – I think the players will enjoy working with him.”
Brown led Strathmore to promotion from Caledonia League One on his first year in charge (with 16 wins and 15 try bonus-points from 16 games), and was on the touchline last Saturday when his charges lost out 28-24 away to Perthshire, leaving them seventh in the National League Division Three table, after one of the last games played before the Coronavirus suspension kicked in.
“I have loved my two years at Strathmore, it is a great community club filled with great people, but the opportunity to return to Dundee High was just too good for me to turn down,” he said.
“When I decided to finish up my playing days in 2018 I was keen to get into coaching and felt that a move away from Dundee at that stage to go somewhere else and learn my trade would be the best thing.
“Strathmore gave me a chance and I am grateful for that. While there have been bumps in the road and ups and downs, being exposed to coaching this group of rugby players has taught me a lot and I am always learning.
“It has been a tough year for Dundee in National One, but I know the club can grow again and I want to be a part of that. Colin is a great guy who knows everything there is to know about coaching so I will lean on him for advice, and I am really excited about building a squad and putting things in place so we can hit the ground running in 2020-21.”
Local lad Brown had connections with Harris Academy and Morgan during the early stages of his rugby journey in the City of Discovery, before he joined Dundee High in his late teens and never looked back. He represented Caledonia at various age-grade levels, played for Scotland under-16, 18, 19 and 21s, and was involved with Glasgow Warriors in the early to mid noughties when he made a number of appearances off the bench.
Initially a powerhouse No 8, he moved to tight-head prop in his mid-20s where he gained recognition with selection for the Scotland Club XV between 2010 and 2012, and with the Barbarians against the Armed Forces in November 2014 and in the Heriot’s 125th anniversary match at Goldenacre in April 2015.
“After a tough first outing at tight-head against Glasgow Hawks, I began to love it,” he recalls. “Those days at Dundee were brilliant. We finished second in the Premiership one year to Melrose, had some great adventures in the British & Irish Cup and I made some great friends and played with some cracking players.
“Along with the hard working volunteers at the club and Colin, I want to create that buzz around Dundee again. There are some good players in the city and others who move here and it just about harnessing that talent, creating a good culture and building from there.”