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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own