Sam Wallace: Now the end is near for gaffe-prone Tigers gaffer
He may do a convincing turn as Hull's own David Brent but Phil Brown has the talent to stage a return – if he learns from his mistakes
Friday 30 October 2009
The former Hull City chairman Paul Duffen recently said of his manager Phil Brown that the jibes about him being "Mr Perma Tan" were, in his view, bordering on "racism". "He has never been on a sunbed in his life," he said. As Duffen saw it, Brown was just a "guy with olive skin" who people had wrongly made an assumption about because of his personality.
It was an interesting take on Brown's unique situation because there was no doubt that the public persona Brown had created for himself had become a bit of a monster. In fact it had grown out of control. First he had been regarded as the likeable down-to-earth English manager taking on the big boys of the Premier League. Then the worm turned. Suddenly Brown became English football's David Brent.
As of yesterday, Duffen, a key ally for Brown, was forced out of Hull and, as revealed in The Independent, former Derby County and Hull chairman Adam Pearson is on his way back to Humberside. That has put Brown back on borrowed time and it is understood that he could be sacked as early as next week. Few managerial reigns have combined such spectacular achievement with such disaster in such a short space of time.
Brown has not made it hard for his critics, and this newspaper has been among them, to take pot-shots. There was his ill-advised rant against Cesc Fabregas and Arsène Wenger last season and the allegations of spitting that were never likely to be substantiated. In the end not a single Hull player gave evidence. There was his bizarrely vague claim that he had talked a woman out of taking her own life while walking with his squad across the Humber Bridge.
In true Brentian style, Brown is the man who always believes he has just thought up the best gag for the situation and, with a captive audience, he is damn well going to tell you it. After Hull's home draw with Manchester City last November he noted the accent of a reporter in the post-match press conference and said, with cheery confidence, "You're Brazilian, I bet you're going to ask me about Geovanni". The reporter in question was Greek.
It was harmless and unintentionally hilarious but ultimately Brown let things get out of hand. As Hull rose to joint top in the heady days at the start of last season he grew a moustache for charity. Laudable in its intentions but not really in keeping with the seriousness required for the job. He said if Hull stayed up on the last day of the season he planned to ride across France on his Harley Davidson. In the event he grabbed the microphone and led a sing-a-long on the pitch.
It was excruciating at times although nothing topped his team-talk on the pitch in the away game against Manchester City which, for all Brown's subsequent protestations, was all about him. It was designed to portray him as the maverick manager, loyal to the fans and dedicated to the job. In the end it was perceived for exactly what it was: a look-at-me exercise from a man having the time of his life being centre of attention.
Yes, it is easy to have a dig at Brown. But when he does go the Premier League will have lost a character who clearly had a real talent for management if only he could have cleared away the rest of the rubbish surrounding the game. And as for the criticisms that Brown was too ready to be quoted or interviewed – that confidence he showed was a strength. It is a pity more managers do not do it.
As a manager, Brown built an excellent Hull team from players he had inherited and those he brought in. He won at the Emirates and White Hart Lane with a team that included Paul McShane, Dean Marney and Ian Ashbee. But unlike his counterpart Tony Pulis at Stoke, Brown lost control of his dressing room. He had some bad apples in there, and he also has to take responsibility for his own misjudgements.
He announced his ambition to be England manager in an interview that appeared two days after that infamous 5-1 thrashing from City. Bad timing. He stuck with the ear piece long after everyone else had abandoned them as needlessly showy. Bad judgement.
Yet for all the errors, he did have the endearing qualities of a Geordie electrician who had made it all the way to the top. He had run a restaurant in a Yorkshire village and worked as the maître d', a role you might argue he is more cut out for than football management. His suits were the kind preferred by the successful local businessman. But that was not the root of the problem.
The root of it was that as soon as Brown stopped taking himself seriously it was hard for the rest of us not to do the same. No doubt he will be back at some point if it does all end with Hull next week. Hopefully minus the earpiece.
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