Phil Brown: 'I would have kept Hull in the Premier League for 20 years'

Looking back on his roller-coaster years on Humberside, the manager, whose Southend side face his former club in the FA Cup, on how his achievements have been overshadowed by one notorious incident

There is one moment from which Phil Brown has never properly recovered. The one that he is always asked about. Four-nil down at Manchester City, he kept his Hull City players on the pitch, sat them down and delivered his half-time team talk in full view of 40,000 people.

It made him seem by turns flippant and egocentric, concerned with his own image rather than the club's long-term future. Although when Hull's most successful manager left Humberside in March 2010, it was precisely that long-term future which troubled him most.

"We were on the verge of building a 92-acre training ground but with the intervention of a new chairman that did not manifest itself," said Brown. "I believe that, had I stayed, we would have survived a second season in the Premier League and, with that new training ground, we would have remained a Premier League club for 20 years.

"The new chairman did not share that vision. He was a short-term man and that is no good to me. Maybe for that reason alone, it was best that we did part company." His dismissal sent Brown on a journey that took him to Southend, where he is making the final preparations for Saturday's FA Cup home tie with Hull.

His CV is impressive – as Sam Allardyce's assistant he helped bring European football to Bolton, he took Hull into the top flight and kept them there. However, few jobs have come his way. He briefly managed Preston, who had just sacked Darren Ferguson which meant his father withdrew the Manchester United loan players from Deepdale. The Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, did the same. Preston were relegated.

There was talk of Hartlepool, a club he had once played for, taking him on but nothing came of it. Does the shadow of the Etihad still hang over Phil Brown? "I am quite proud of the fact that we went to the Emirates and beat a very good Arsenal side. I am very proud of the fact that after nine games Hull had the record number of points – 20 – for a newly promoted team," he said.

Phil Brown conducts his team talk on the pitch against Manchester City in December 2008 (Getty) Phil Brown conducts his team talk on the pitch against Manchester City in December 2008 (Getty)
"Instead of that, I am judged on a half-time team talk at Manchester City. I was told it meant I had lost the dressing room and that I had exposed the club to ridicule. But the bigger picture was that we had won at the Emirates, we had won at White Hart Lane, we had won at St James' Park and lost 4-3 at Old Trafford. People choose to forget that."

When, at the Wembley play-off final in 2008, Brown ended Hull's status as being the largest English conurbation never to have staged top-flight football, he remarked: "This is the greatest day of my life and always will be." Six years on, is it still true?

"No, I had better, which seems a strange thing to say. The last day of my first season in the Premier League was probably it [the one on which he sang "Sloop John B" to the crowd]. Against every odd we had survived."

Brown is a far deeper thinker about football than his public image. His chief concern at Southend, as at Hull, was the training ground. When Kevin Keegan took over the ruins of Newcastle United in 1992, the first thing he did was have the training ground redecorated. Brown did the same.

"It was an old nightclub and it wasn't really an environment that was conducive to anything," he said. "The chairman offered me £50,000-worth of investment to do it up and that is one of the keys to success because it makes the players want to come into work."

However, it is difficult to imagine Brown can have the kind of distant vision he once had for Hull when with Southend in League Two, where survival means not going out of business rather than not being relegated.

"This is real football with real people and real problems and I am enthused by it," he said. "I have always taken my strength from a river and I always will. I grew up on the banks of the Tyne, I had some of my best years in football on the banks of the Humber and now here I am on the banks of the Thames."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition