By Alex Netherton
Phil Brown’s on gardening leave, and I spot him reclining unusually hesitantly in his new conservatory, fingering the glossy pages of his recent interview with Zoo. His cheeks wear the tearstains that make it painfully clear that this has been a long night of the soul. His protective wife opened the door to me with the words, “You can’t imagine the night we’ve had, he’s just repeating this phrase like crazy…”
“Geovanni’s put down his violin and I’ve had my baton taken away.”
I have to find out more. Without thinking, I embrace Phil Brown in his wicker chair, expertly matched to his summer panama hat – he wears it religiously at Lord’s – and ask him what’s going on. He looks at me with those determined but lost eyes. I can see the friendly flicker of recognition in his soul. A man-manager at heart, he instantly sees my suffering and can’t help but try to give me succour, (“He’s always been a gentleman first,” his good friend Maxi Jazz will attest) but inside he’s still so desolate he can’t quite break free of his gruesome catatonia.
‘Monday. Monday 15th. Monday 15th March. Monday 15th March 2010. That’s the day, what I like to call ‘The Music’ died.
“But I want my baton back. I want it back.”
“Had they started doing a Manager of the Fortnight?”
I’ve not been in regular contact with Brown since we stopped messaging each other on Twitter, where he made manifest “The three Fs: Football, Fashion and Philosophy. And soul music.”
I ask him to talk me through just what happened, to put to bed the haze of internet forum gossip swirling around the football globe.
“It’s still a bit of a blur, all told. I remember finding out when the usual Sky Sports instant message bleeped up on my iPhone. When I saw my name, at first I’d thought I’d got Manager of the Month, but then I realised it was the 15th. Had they started doing a Manager of the Fortnight? I didn’t want believe it to be honest. But what hurt me most, as a man of dignity, is that I knew deep down it was true when the Blackberry didn’t follow with the news. It’d already been disconnected by Hull. I couldn’t help but shed a tear, and then crack a smile, at the symbolism.
“When I texted Garth Crooks to give him the news, he’d gone off the rails instantly. I remember waking up Tuesday morning as my mobile bleeped, and it was Crooksy. At first I was pleased, just glad to know he was alright, as he’s a sensitive soul like yours truly. But I couldn’t help feel empathy when I saw what he’d sent. It was just a photo of a beach, at dawn.
“He’d trailed the words ‘Fuck existence’ into the sand with his big toe.”
So what’s next for PB?
“New media, definitely. Phil Brown Digital. Phil Brown 2.0. I proved it with Twitter. My tactics blog has been in development for a while now, and that’ll very much come to the fore. It’s Andy Gray’s Bootroom mixed with a human rights twist. It’s called For-Free-Free.”
With this joke, we both realise what’s happening. When will Phil Brown be back? He already is.