Let’s Hear It For… Phil Brown

Ollie Irish

7th, September 2010


By Alex Netherton

I’m getting the words… Phil Brown

Phil Brown is easy to make fun of, I grant you that. For a while, I had a few thousand followers on Twitter as I took the piss out of his unique aphorisms. But I stopped after A) everyone started doing it, and more importantly B) I realised that Phil Brown was so much more remarkable, and truly amusing than anyone trying to imitate him. Phil Brown has a ludicrous tan. Phil Brown dresses like a smart casual gigolo in the middle of a metrosexual midlife crisis. But the thing is, people have gone overboard. To his detriment, he’s far too easy to mock. What we shouldn’t forget, and especially what chairmen across the country shouldn’t forget, is that he was a superb manager for most of his time at Hull, and he brings an enormous amount of goodwill with him. He’s one of the good guys, and we don’t have many of them left in football. Oh, Wayne.

What other manager could lead a chorus of his fans, singing ‘Sloop John B’? He leads men on the pitch and his followers on the terrace. It’s not that he doens’t appreciate this support either. Asked about the singalong, he said: ‘’I’ve never conducted 25,000 people before. Well, maybe in church. And this is my church.” You know what, Phil? I bloody love being one of your disciples. He gets roundly mocked for this end-of-season entertainment, but what most of the media and internet morons don’t realise is that at Hull, this amended song celebrated ‘the greatest trip we’ve ever been on’. The fans were as much a part of this, paying tribute to a true hero.

However ridiculous you might think he is, at least he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He acknowledges people ‘titter’ at his press conferences, but do you really think he gives a shit? He grew a sexx beard for Movember for an honourable cause, for God’s sake.

If he really was a clown, do you think Alex Ferguson would have had him at Carrington to show him his methods and improve his knowledge? Who else might he do that for apart from Jose Mourinho?

All these moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain

Other established managers would certainly extend him the same courtesy. Sam Allardyce, one of the most effective English managers today, kept him as his assistant for six years. Allardyce wasn’t the one to cause the split either, it was Brown who wanted to make it on his own. Presumably at Hull, given that he was never three feet away from Brian Horton in the dugout, one can only assume his Sam-style headset was a direct link to the Big Man. Or, I hope, it could have been just for him to record his thoughts on. The audiobook, ‘Phil Brown: tactical and philosophical musings from the battlefield,’ is already on my Christmas list.

This is a self-sufficient specimen, a man of ambition – however much it might frighten us. He’s achieved far more than most English managers, and considerably more than most English players who didn’t immediately decamp from their Premiership playing days to a mid-level Premiership team or a promotion-bound Championship outfit. The bald facts are this:

Phil Brown took Hull – Hull! – to the Premiership for the first time in their history. This is not like taking a yo-yo club back to where they intermittently spend their days. This is not like getting Blackburn to maintain their place in the Premiership in a sea of terrible teams. The season before Hull gained their place in the big time – where PB feels most comfortable – he’d steadied the ship, avoiding what at some points looked like certain relegation. When he was sacked, there were still 30 points left to win. And I reckon he’d have won at least 30. Given his record over three seasons of flirting with danger but ultimately inspiring his team to overachievement, what defence is there for replacing him with Iain Dowie? I’m not even sure Iain Dowie has a first language, but it definitely isn’t English.

Certain relegation is what Iain Dowie’s appointment secured them. When he said, ‘you only have to look at my record,’ as some kind of justification for his employment, as ‘football consultant,’ the retort should immediately have been, ‘Yeah, ‘Iain,’ you took down Newcastle with Alan Shearer and Crystal Palace all by yourself. You got sacked after 15 games at Charlton whereafter they got relegated. You finished 17th in The Championship at Coventry. You spell your name with too many ‘I’s. Phil Brown, however, has got Hull to Wembley and Dean Windass and Nicky Barmby back in the Premiership, playing an attractive 4-3-3.’

What happened next? He won one game of Hull’s nine that he was in charge, achieving his lowest win ration of his whole career. Iain Dowie was in no way suited to improving Hull’s lot. He was a manager on a downer of diminishing returns. Phil Brown was unfairly shafted, and tainted by this failure.

Squeaky bum time

Remember, too, that Phil Brown rehabilitated a football genius. Gareth to his David Brent, Geovanni rediscovered the effectiveness that he lost as soon as he left Brazil. Geovanni scored goals more often than he had done since his time as a sexy Christian colt at Cruzeiro. Geovanni did say that it was ‘God’s words’ that had called him to Hull. I know English is not his first language, but it’s not surprising that he got Our Lord and Phil Brown mixed up, is it?

Brown’s oratory, like God’s, is so sublime and memorable that one must take time to appreciate it and realise why he is a remarkable human. Silly, yes, but I genuinely believe that a man who doesn’t just say, ‘anything we get out of this game is a bonus,’ as a catchphrase, brings to football an utterly charming and enjoyable point of view. Instead of dismissing the charmless and chippy Fabregas for spitting at Brian Horton with the usual English moronic abuse, he hit him where it hurt. He upbraided him for his aggression, ‘dressed in the manner he was dressed,’ a leather jacket and jeans when you’re talking to legend Brian Horton. This kind of devastatingly nuanced put down sums up his personal motto, ‘PB – personal best.’ He’s all about dignity. And I genuinely miss that.

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  1. Ben Cornelius says:

    Brilliantly written

  2. Miami Tiger says:

    Great article, I enjoyed it and agree. Fan since 1963.

    Well done excellent job

    Thank you

    Murray AKA Miami Tiger

  3. Dan says:

    Very enjoyable read and true!

  4. Luke says:

    labour. of. love.

    this is the article alex netherton was born to write.

    next article please:
    what happened when alex met phil

    it could be beautiful/very thelma & louise

  5. Jacob says:

    Simply a brilliant man.

  6. JJ says:

    People often forget the job that PB did for Hull, and i think everyone including us Hull fans should respect what he did. I will give him a warm reception anytime he comes back to Hull.

  7. Phil in Hull says:

    As a Tigers fan I felt the timing of Brown’s departure was woeful. But then again so was his man management.

    He was lucky with the Tigers- when we stayed up it was due to L**ds going into administration. When we went up it was more down to Fraizer Campbell and Dean Windass’s partnership than anything else- they suddenly clicked. The 1st season was full of lucky wins and lucky escapes. The wins at Arsenal and Spurs were more down to poor finishing from the other sides.
    Brown’s ego was never ending. It was more about him than about than about Hull City.
    I will be eternally greatful for the job he did- but he has left us with a liability of debt and poor finances (along with his best buddy Duffen). A lot of what you have put is bleary eyed, emotional tripe….

  8. dave says:

    Phil in Hull

    You have hit the nail right on the head .Promotion wasn’t due to ,it was in spite of PB’s square pegs in round holes which didn’t just start in the Premiership.All Phil Brown left us with was ridicule from other fans and he brought Hull City into disrepute.His ego far outweighed his management ability and he should have gone in the February of our first season in the EPL.

  9. Andy says:

    Phil in Hull – you miserable twat.

  10. Chris Stern says:

    Actually it was clean sheets as much as goals that got us promoted. If you don’t believe me have a look at the record for February and March 2008.

    If, perhaps, we had had a better chairman who challenged PB ,kept his feet on the ground and didn’t keep saying “Phil and I” then things might have stayed on track.

    I have the greatest of respect for Adam Pearson butthe timing of PB’s garden leave and then the replacement with ID were two terrible decisions.

  11. Muz says:

    Poorly treated by all & sundry in the UK media and then shafted by the club. I personally still reckon his famous half time dressing down of the players on the pitch was needed and showed some real guts.
    He also took his sacking on the chin, didn’t whinge and wished the club all the best. Top bloke.

  12. Jon in Norway says:

    This article sounds like it was written by style guru Peter York. Go and get a job for Vogue and stop wasting the time of people who thought this site might have some football content.

  13. Alex says:


    I am very fashionable, it’s true. But looks like I got him a job.

  14. PD says:


  15. AR, London says:

    Phil Brown – legend. Our greatest-ever manager.

  16. Phil in Hull says:

    Andy- not a miserable twat- a REALIST. Thanks for the constructive critiscm though!
    As for Brown- he was lucky- nothing else. Man Management was poor. End of story. Defensively in the CCC we were great- down to a very good partnership of Brown and Turner. Brown was then mercilessly dumped.
    The timing of his gardening leave was a joke- for me Brown should have either gone at the end of the season or as soon as Pearson came back.
    Brown’s ego was laughable- and it was fed by the idiot that was Paul Duffen- who in my mind still needs seriously investigating by some form of criminal investigations team….

  17. dave says:

    I still think hes a tit. That half time bollocking on the pitch was a disgraceful way to treat people simply belittling them in order to make him look good. Utter nob after that in my view.

  18. […] Another reason: he’s not Harry Redknapp. Harry Redknapp has played one proper European game and before that got shown up by Young Boys because he’s only just got the hang of tactics, and only because he had them handed to him, along with his arse, by the Swiss team a few weeks ago. Harry Redknapp goes out of his way to psychologically destroy decent players, Pavluychenko being the most recent. However much he might want his next stop to be at Wembley, it won’t, it’ll be in court, which everyone handily forgets when mentioning his name. Who else are we gonna get who’s English? Phil Brown? Actually, I think that might work, but that’s my sickness. […]

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