Is Phil Brown really that odious?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2011 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments
Is Phil Brown odious? Self-regarding he may be, but I could never work out why he attracted such opprobrium during Hull City’s two year spell among the elite. To fans of smaller clubs, his treatment smacked of that meted out by the establishment to the nouveau riche. The mike and the suntan didn’t help of course, but he wasn’t that bad a bloke surely?

The narrative that is Phil Brown’s Best Trip had its antecedents as well as its echoes. Plucky Millwall and Wimbledon were welcomed to top tier football before being vilified for their boisterousness; Reading were popular before a Machiavellian Portuguese accused Stephen Hunt and the Royal Berkshire Ambulance Service; Sheffield United were told to stop moaning about Kia Joorabchian’s machinations; Stoke play bloody awful football; Ian Holloway is an inveterate attention seeker. These people were welcome at the top table for a time but they had to know their place — be seen but not heard.

As with these others, the press tired of Brown and we were credulous enough to go along with them. An open hearted man who enjoyed the buzz of the Premier League was accused of getting ahead of himself — but who wouldn’t be excited by a spell in that sweetshop? Who wouldn’t trust friendly journalists over a late drink in a hotel bar? If warbling with delight at the preservation of Premier League status is a crime, then our world is topsy turvy — the Hull boss has never matched Didier, Wayne, Arjen, John or Jose for delinquency — and yet it is they who are fàªted.

On Tuesday, the club I support came up against a Phil Brown-stewarded eleven for the first time in my memory. Following three successive wins, Preston were threatening to become the latest unit to inspire renditions of a now hackneyed war film theme. Drawa with high flying Norwich and Queen’s Park Rangers had also attracted notice and it seemed that Brown’s golden touch was paying dividends again.

For an hour, those suspicions were richly confirmed. Missing their most high profile player, defender Sean St. Ledger, Preston’s line up looked every inch a bottom three unit on paper…and yet, the tactical acumen and organization was evident. Simple ploys worked — right footed Billy Jones enlisted at left back to counter North End’s oftentime tormentor Jimmy Kà©bà©, a three man midfield quick to pressurize a Royals middle three lacking the bite of Mikele Leigertwood and canny new acquisition Bongani Khumalo marshalling adeptly at the back.

Iain Hume, finally emerging from the horror of Morgangate, played the lone front man role well, zippy and sharp, he often threatened to upset Reading’s pension-collecting back line. On the flanks, Keith Treacy and Eddie Johnson showed up prominently; the former making a monkey out of Andy Griffin on one occasion, the latter arriving on the end of a free kick to bring about the equaliser.

But organization can only take you so far and errors bring goals. So it occurred with less than ten minutes to go as Iain Turner and his defence competed for the same ball, allowing Hal Robson-Kanu to pounce. In truth, it had been Brian McDermott’s introduction of Leigertwood and Mathieu Manset plus a significant up in drive that had led Royals to a victory deserved on the basis of the final half hour, but PNE had looked capable of holding out until that catastrophe.

As for Brown, his clever acquisition of right hand man Ian Ashbee and an attention to detail are helping him rebuild a reputation that had been unfairly smeared although it’s obviously too late. Still, his XI on Tuesday smacked of one that will be close to that which will start in August — the higher profile likes of St. Ledger, Andy Lonergan, Nathan Ellington, Paul Hayes and Paul Parry did not start here and nor will they in the Summer. His post match comments hinted a little at Premier League defensiveness but Brown is guilty of nothing more than being occasionally annoying — he’s not sworn into a camera and nor has he tried to cover up racial slurs – give the man a break.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.


  1. tigerph1l
    April 8, 2011

    As a Hull City fan I will always be greatful for what Brown did for us in getting us to hte “promised land” of the PL. But for me his own ego got in the way of what could be a very good manager.
    I met him on a few occasions and he was really easy to talk to and seemed a nice enough guy – but then the bad side got in the way and he became a bit of a tool. His ego ran rampant and was left unchecked by Paul Duffen. It all became about Phil Brown's team and a Phil Brown mentality. Without the ego he is a top fella – but with it he is a complete egomaniac and a very un-attractive man!

  2. Marcus
    April 8, 2011

    Nice to see someone looking at Brown with a bit of balance and the respect that, frankly, he deserves.

    What he did for us at Hull was incredible, and the moaning of the national media and a small minority of City fans should not cloud that.

    Good blog.

  3. John McGee
    April 8, 2011

    I'm an unashamed Brown fan, and not just for the ironic reasons either.

    He's clearly a good manager and a great motivator. What I've also heard from absolutely every person I know who's met him, is that he's a warm, generous and engaging individual too.

    We shouldn't let the fact that he is easy to lampoon cloud any of that, more shame the press.

  4. Lanterne Rouge
    April 8, 2011

    I would agree with the last commenter on Nigel Pearson – a super manager – like Brian McDermott, he has an understated style and modesty that I wish was more common in football.

  5. unitedite
    April 8, 2011

    A good read. At the end of the day he was successful at Bolton with Allardyce, successful at Hull, only Derby he struggled. Vastly over criticised by a media who like LR says, grow tired of the upstarts when they have had long enough eating at the avaricious Premier league table.

    Anonymous – Find me any manager who isn't out for himself. They are in a job just like we (hopefully) are and looking after their career (just like we would). Ideally the success of the club ensures career progression but can you honestly say you would act any differently?

  6. Lloyd
    April 8, 2011

    Enjoyed this. I don't hold much hope for PNE, but at least they're going down with a fight which is more than I expected. I can see them and Sheff Utd encountering Plymouth-esque problems next season.

    I've had many an argument with my dad and mates about Phil Brown. I couldn't stand the man when he was Derby and Hull. Goes back to his first season with the former when we played the Rams early on at Home Park. They took the points, and all I remember is Brown doing his cocky gobshite act on the sidelines and I've never seen a manager leave his technical area more. I'm all up for free will and that, but by word do I not like it when an opposition manager pushes the limits and winds it up.

    Those actions planted a seed, and to this day I've always been of the view that he's a plonker. But, you're right, there's plonkers and there's Wayne Rooney. Now that he's back in the Football League, at least he's our plonker.

  7. Stanley
    April 8, 2011

    PNE visit the Den later this month and I'm sure that the Tango man will get a warm reception.

    I have to say that I agree with every word of this piece, though. The media-led backlash against Brown was unwarranted and his achievements deserve greater respect. Holloway is already getting similar treatment from the media and will be enemy number one if Blackpool stay up. As much as their self-regard sometimes grates, it's nothing compared to that of Scudamore and his acolytes.

  8. Michael
    April 8, 2011

    (But then I am a bit biased)

  9. Ben
    April 12, 2011

    I'm afraid that no amount of well-constructed argument is going to convince this Geordie that a varnished Mackem with a hot-air-balloon-sized ego who unleashed his karaoke Sinatra on the pitch in celebration of our relegation is anything less than a prize tosser. Sorry LR.

  10. How Low Will Phil Brown Stoop Before He Gets a Job? | The Two Unfortunates
    February 3, 2013

    […] In assessing his League One bound Preston side towards the end of 2011-12, my co-editor presented the defence, arguing that he’s “guilty of nothing more than being occasionally annoying”. Give the man a break, dissenters were told. […]


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