10 January ~ Phil Brown's appointment as Preston North End manager will come as a relief not just to him but also to the thousands of Hull City supporters who remain in his debt. Inevitably, we've since heard that the local tanning salons will see their profits rise and that the Deepdale microphone will need to be kept out of the new gaffer's reach. This is deeply, deeply tedious. Preston, as I'm sure their more thoughtful supporters will know, have just got themselves a man who has recent form for pulling a Championship club away from relegation before taking it in the opposite direction.

Brown was brought to Hull in the autumn of 2006 to work as coach under manager Phil Parkinson, who was sacked in December with the Tigers in the bottom three and in ghastly form. Through a combination of subtle tactics and the self-belief he instilled in the squad, Brown staved off relegation with just a game to spare, sending Leeds United down simultaneously as a scrumptious bonus. Though many thought that a historic promotion to the Premier League the following year was down to luck, the Tigers went into the play-offs as favourites. They had been close to going up automatically and boasted a mean-spirited (and exceptional) defence, a midfield with a blend of guile and strength, and a couple of strikers who were scoring prolifically.

For the first six months in the Premier League, Brown and the team could do no wrong, locally or beyond. It started to go pear-shaped only when he began to believe the hype a little too much, though still he had the majority of the crowd on his side when the Tigers stayed up on the final day and he mutilated the City-centric version of Sloop John B on the KC announcer's mic. The team's decline last season has to be seen in the context of upheavals behind the scenes, with Brown's main backer, executive chairman Paul Duffen, replaced by the returning Adam Pearson, the man who had appointed Brown in 2006. Pearson gave Brown another five months before finally putting him on gardening leave in March 2010. The settlement was reached in the summer, by which time the Tigers had been relegated.

It's taken a while for Brown to find work again, despite jobs at Sheffield United (twice), Scunthorpe, Southampton, Middlesbrough, Leicester and his old playing club Hartlepool, among others, becoming available during his time of leisure. Few of the jobs went to candidates with better qualifications, Leicester perhaps being the only obvious exception. There is enough of the season left for the unfairly derided Brown to prove that the idiosyncrasies of his Premier League time were just that, and under it all there is a gifted and astute football boss. Matthew Rudd


Comments (3)
Comment by t.j.vickerman 2011-01-10 12:35:55

Admittedly Brown did an exceptionally good job in the Championship at Hull. And for those opening months in the Premier League. But he was a disaster before that at Derby. His appearance and the frequency of his media appearances make him easy to dislike. It will be interesting to see if he's learned to just get on with his job and be a bit more low-key in his approach this time. If so, he could well prove a smart appointment.

Comment by Cruyffpne 2011-01-10 14:56:14

As a Preston fan who has had to endure a manager in Darren Ferguson who has broke nearly ever "worst managerial" record on offer in his time at Deepdale, I am delighted with the capture of someone with a record as glowing (pun intend) as Phil Brown's. Beggars can't be choosers and sat adrift at the bottom of the Championship with play off form needed to have any hope of staying up, Brown and Horton must be seen as somewhat of a coup. Whether or not we survive this season, Phil Brown will have a busy summer ahead of rebuilding to ensure whichever division we find ourselves next season, we are a competitive side. If nothing else, Brown's refusal to refer to Darren Ferguson as anything but "Alex's son" has earnt him instant backing from the Deepdale faithful.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2011-01-10 15:26:17

Glad to see a fairer reappraisal of Brown. Sure, he's not the world's finest manager, but getting Hull into the top flight at all is a very impressive. And as to his struggles with Derby, and that whole halftime-on-the-pitch debacle, it's worth remembering that he's still inexperienced as a manager.

I wish him well. Sort of. I mean, it is still Phil Brown, there's only so far I can continue to be nice about him. But, whatever his, ahem, interesting character traits, he is a talented manager, and good luck to him and to Preston.

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