From Hull and Hell, Good Lord Deliver Phil Brown


This first appeared a couple of days ago, but deserves a bump back to the top because of the quality of the ensuing debate.

Phil Brown is a Mackem, he’s passionate and he led Hull City to heights few of their fans can realistically have expected to see. He has done questionable things – the dressing down for his team on the field at Eastlands was amateurish, Sloop John B on the pitch embarrassing, not talking to local radio absurd – but overall he can hold his head high. Jeremy Robson, a Sunderland fan exiled in Canada, puts in a few words for the man who must now choose between becoming events and entertainments manager of the local WI or using his gardening leave to profitable horticultural effect …

There’s a certain irony, isn’t there, with clubs (and the associated manager) overachieving. Chairmen are rarely happy with a single miracle and want a second (or in Hull’s case a third following promotion and then avoiding the drop). Football managers really ought to be careful what they wish for.

Phil Brown got Hull City somewhere they’ve spent their entire existence dreaming about (see nicksarebi’s Flickr photo of that grand day at Wembley). Now he’s got the sack.

No Jock Stein, or Brian Clough is Phil, but he’s effectively become a victim of his own success.

Personally I think he got dead lucky when they went up. (Our own) Fraizer Campbell looked the business down there on loan.

Allied to Michael Turner and an ageing Barmby and Windass who gave everything for him he managed to get them up against all odds. There’s an argument of course which says that regardless of who the manager may be, come the end of the season there will be three teams go down and three go up.

That’s just the way it is, and the line between success and failure is very thin indeed. The play offs to all intents and purposes mean that line is removed altogether. The ultimate spin of the wheel that turns losers into winners.

Maybe the Hull board should have been grateful and been content with a swashbuckling adventure of a season in the top flight and accepted that they will eventually drop to their normal level sooner rather than later, but no the miracle maker is deposed to tending his allotment while the likes of Brian Horton (previously not considered good enough to manage Hull any longer, together with Steve Parkin; (who was sacked at Rochdale not so long ago) are handed the reins.

I quite like Phil Brown. He’s one of us. If they were going to sack him it should probably have been earlier in the season or in the summer for my money. I’m not saying that he has done a particularly good job at Hull City during his time in the Premier League, but what exactly did the board expect other than a battle against the drop?

The only players that were prepared to sign for him were those drinking in the PL’s last chance saloon, (McShane, Kilbane, Boateng and the permanently injured Bullard) who weren’t wanted by other top flight clubs or who were comparatively larger fish in other very small ponds such as Cousin and Vennegoor of Hesselink.

The teams that Brown put out were as good as could reasonably be expected.

Bigger names were unlikely to want to sign for a club of Hull’s stature when the statistics against them remaining in the top flight for more than two seasons makes grim reading, not just for Hull City, but any newly promoted club. It’s even worse for the club that gets up via the play offs.

There’s a long list of managers who were considered to be the best thing since sliced bread at the post promotion party. Billy Davies, Owen Coyle, Tony Mowbray, Nigel Worthington, Alan Pardew, Danny Wilson, George Burley, to name a few that ultimately became the victims of their own success in getting unfancied, less wealthy teams promoted against the odds.

Their various moments of glory were fleeting and most of them were relieved of duty when results started to falter. Phil Brown is just the latest name on that list. All of these managers were rather like Icarus. They flew too high and too fast. Owen Coyle’s real mettle will be tested during the run in to the end of the season. In three seasons he will be the manager at Old Trafford if you believe some observers. He’s equally likely to be driving a milk float; truth be told.

There are those who point to Phil’s half time rant at Eastlands and attribute this to Hull’s fall down the table. Results after the Man City game and even in the second half were no worse and no better than those which went before. The depth of Hull City’s problems are yet to be revealed and they have not departed with Phil Brown.

Hull City are in what appears to be a particularly unenviable financial position if various media reports are to be believed.

Maybe sacking him and saving his salary is the long and the short of it. It really doesn’t seem like footballing sense to me.

If I were a Hull fan, I’d be seriously concerned at having Messrs Horton and Parkin in charge as no long term successor appears to have been scouted ahead of time. A kneejerk reaction is one thing, To have little idea why your knee is jerking is a completely different matter.

I will personally miss Phil Brown’s sun tan, microphone and the fact that he always seems to say just what he thinks. That’s what you get with a Mackem.

25 thoughts on “From Hull and Hell, Good Lord Deliver Phil Brown”

  1. To be fair Jeremy, you say you might be opinionated, join the club, we are football supporters! Having debated the Pros and Cons, I found your article was provocative in a good way and achieved the response it deserved, healthy debate. having just found this site I shall keep in toch as the articles, comments and journalistic commentary seem to be top notch! Keep well and enjoy the run in!

  2. Guys – this could get tiresome for others and that would be a pity! Re-read my initial response and you will only find two references to Sunderland; the first in which I declare a fondness for the club and people, the second which is no more than a reference point to the similarity of our early season starts, last year and this. It was the style of the comment and some of the assumptions that irritated me.

    It was in Jeremy’s next response that he decided to give me the beginnings of a history lesson; unfortunately it was inaccurate and unnecessary; but no bother! You, Salutsunderland, then took up the reins and continued the history lesson and comparisons – you both led the chase on this! But let us stop it here. I measure a club on what they can bring to the field today – form is usually measured over 6 games and that about sums it up for me. Football is a game of changing fortunes, poor and good luck, poor and good officials, star players who get injured and star players who bomb! It is also about managers who constantly seek to play their best eleven, because they know their best eleven and they have studied the frailties of today’s opposition.

    Any clubs credibility these days is as good as their last year’s results and ours have been appalling; none of us hide from that, hence the Brown out faction. I believe any club who gets promoted to any league has a right to be given respect and allowed to get on with it – our problem was Brown’s mouth; it lost connection to his brain at times and brought ridicule on the good name of our club!

    Newcastle supporters still tell me that ‘little’ Hull were lucky last season – and the inference is that they were therefore unlucky. Newcastle, just like us and other clubs had internal problems and 38 x 90 minutes to get it right on the pitch, but no noticeable lack of funds; we took 4 points from 6 and showed them the door in the FA Cup, falling to Arsenal on a poor decision. Jeez are we, little Hull, lucky!

    Jeremy, I enjoy a pint with many lads in the pub, but I would not want them to manage my team. Don’t say ‘all’ because I and quite a few others had real doubts about Browns abilities, but recognised he had earned the right at a shot managing in the top flight – fair dos! My patience finally ran out with him, in footballing terms, around February 2009.

    Salutsunderland, yes, I would be prepared to do the piece prior to our next game.

    SAFCDaft – agree with you in most points, but believe me I have fully accepted the possibility of relegation (there I’ve said it!), but I will not accept the probability just yet! Glass always half full mate!

    Keep the faith guys, you will be fine. Get someone to use Campbell as Windass did and you will reap more return – slow the lad a tad and get more end product. Thanks for the well reasoned and polite banter – a credit to your club and yourselves! That great man Raich Carter will always provide a bond between our clubs. Onwards and upwards!

  3. I feel for Alan, it’s very hard to face the truth about the drop into the Championship, and as a Sunderland supporter I am all too aware of that feeling. It would not surprise me if we make the drop this year, but recent form suggests we may stay up. I think Jeremy has hit the nail on the head with his comparisons with other managers whom have had success one year and been fired the next. In the world of top flight football there is no place for failure, the consequences for the drop are so big, only the most committed chairman will stand by their manager’s. The reality is the more money a club spends the more success you have, that being said Hull don’t have huge amounts of cash to splash and therefore will be favorites to go down every year, unless they are purchased by a Sugar daddy such as Abramovich. The size of a club is not measured by the support anymore, or Sunderland would be in the top four every year, it is measured by the size of it’s bank balance. Hull City could be a big club, history has nothing to do with it, and they just need lots of lovely cash. Only 14 years ago Man City were in the third tire, then along comes a sugar daddy and now they are vying for a top four place. I read Jeremy’s article as being accurate and true, and if Hull City wanted long term success they should have stuck with Phil Brown, at least until the end of the season. I really do hope the Tiger’s can stay up, it is good for football in the North East.

  4. Alan. My point is that Phil Brown was a lucky fellah getting your club promoted. He was no genius or master tactician (ask the Derby fans about that!), but he was the bloke in the right place at the right time. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Phil Brown or his managerial abilities; he got you up and he kept you up. He deserves a lot of credit for that. Like Colin I would despair if he ever took the reins at Sunderland, but his achievement at keeping a newly promoted club up should be given credit, irrespective of how it was achieved. Keeping any club up is a monumental challenge. I should know after 40+ years of watching us fight against relegation one year and then challenge proudly for promotion the following year. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve witnessed this. Maybe I was a little premature in commenting about Horton and Parkin. I’m not as negative about Iain Dowie as everyone else seems to be and I hope he can turn the ship round.
    This is not about Sunderland; it’s about Hull. Given Hull City’s history and track record, it’s a major footballing miracle that you survived a season. That is not opinion; it is simple fact. Look at the statistics since the conception of the Premier League. If you have come up then the chances are you will go straight back down the following season. If not, then it’s even more likely that you will go down the following year. This applies to clubs that have top flight history (which Hull City does not). Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, Sheffield Utd, Watford, Ipswich Town, WBA, etc etc etc. The list goes on. Given the fact that this is your first foray into the top flight then it’s going to be even more difficult, and often leads to complete and utter disaster. If you don’t believe me, then take a look at the recent and current league standings of Barnsley, Bradford City, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Swindon Town as examples.
    Rapid and unprecedented success is usually a precursor to rapid and subsequent failure, simply because the clubs do not have the financial flexibility and reserves to deal with often unexpected success followed by the after shock of ending up back where you started. I’m sorry you feel the tone is condescending but I fully appreciate the difficulties that clubs have in attracting the calibre of player (even if they can afford wages and transfer fees), because there is limited attraction in playing for a newly promoted club for seasoned talented pros. That’s why you have the likes of McShane, Kilbane and J V of G. Just the same as we ended up with Chopra., Halford and Anderson when we last went up. That is just the way it is and no matter how much you might want to change it, you simply can’t. Maybe you think that being in the PL makes you a PL club in terms of stature, financial clout and equal with every other club in that league. Sorry to disillusion you, but it doesn’t. It takes a long time and some clubs never get there. I’m not in love with modern football like I used to be because it’s a huge business and no longer a sport. Those with the biggest and most stable financial footing will be those that prosper. It’s not even about having a large fan base any more. Anyone who buck that trend is alright in my book. You may have arrived in the PL thinking that it’s the promised land, but it can be a fool’s paradise because the cost of losing your place in it is something from which you may never recover. The poor fortunes of some of those clubs listed above are evidence of that.

    There’s a danger of moving too far away from the main point, which is that Phil Brown was never quite the man you all made him out to be in May 2008. He’s not the clown that so many of you Tigers make him out to be now either. His Beach Boys cover caused me no offence and I couldn’t care less about some of the other things he’s done either. He seems like a canny bloke that you could have a chat with over a pint.
    Hull as a city deserves more from its football club than has ever previously been achieved. I’ve enjoyed seeing your team play over the last couple of seasons enormously and I always want them to win (apart from when you are playing us).

  5. Alan: Great post again, but you keep missing the point that Jeremy was writing about Hull, not Sunderland. What you think about his views on your club is therefore more relevant that any comparison with SAFC. This is a partisan Sunderland site but aims more broadly at football fans whoever they support and occasionally runs material on completely non-SAFC issues (I rattled off a piece on the horrible injury to Aaron Ramsey within an hour of it happening and had visits from 1000 Arsenal fans).

    But no, I wouldn’t have wanted Phil Brown at the SoL.

    And yes, you’ve talked yourself into doing the Who Are You feature ahead of the return game if you’re up for it. You will then have plenty of space to put your views … I’ll send the questions nearer the time if you are.

  6. Okay guys let’s be specific.

    In the opening preamble (Salutsunderland?) it is stated that, “Phil Brown is a Mackem, he’s passionate and he led Hull City to heights few of their fans can realistically have expected to see.” If you added at the end ‘that season’ then you would have had a point, but you did not and you did not!

    Jeremy Robson states that “Chairmen are rarely happy with a single miracle and want a second (or in Hull’s case a third following promotion and then avoiding the drop).” Do you really attribute this to three miracles or a team that battles and simply out performs some that believe they have a golden right to take the points and league position? I have assumed two of your miracles at promotion and survival (the first was by position 3rd and subsequent victory at the play off final – just what more were we to do?) perhaps you could let me know what the first was – being in the CCC? I call that a condescending and smug view of your contemporaries. You go on to use the miracle analogy and say, “but no the miracle maker is deposed to tending his allotment while the likes of Brian Horton (previously not considered good enough to manage Hull any longer, together with Steve Parkin; (who was sacked at Rochdale not so long ago) are handed the reins.” Why criticise the decision to remove Brown; surely not on his record? Look at his games, win draw and lose ratio and his appalling PR gaffes. Or is the fact he is a Mackem all it takes to secure his future?

    Do you really believe our results prior to Boxing Day were as poor as those that have followed? If so you are clearly deluded as we surpassed your lauded (and rightly so) achievements this season for early season performance. We did it on a team that cost far less also. Your freefall has only very recently stopped, like I have said before, I hope that continues.

    Your concerns, regarding Horton and Parkin were a tad premature; although subsequent concerns about Dowie I share!

    As for your history, fine, remember 1987! I too can read Wiki and yes, we are having to fight through hard financial times, but that is nothing new to us or Sunderland – read your own financial history and you might find it more prudent to stick to football.

    Just for the record, I will ask you both again, would you have Phil Brown as the manager of Sunderland? I live among Mackems and have not yet found one who would. I look for to your answer.

  7. Portsmouth were pretty well doomed, anyway, Jeremy. But, as with your Luton example, I hate to see such heavy-handedness on the part of the league. Luton, of course, wound up far worse off than Portsmouth. As you say, cruel, too severe and largely unnecessary.
    You’re so right, Pete — “Ian Dowie!!! Oh dear me.” Given his comments in the past about Hull, he surely can have no credibility either with the players or the fans. And that’s leaving aside his woeful management track record. My feelings as of 12:18 have changed suddenly.

  8. I don’t have very much sympathy for them to be honest Bill. If you look at the way that Luton Town were punished for “transfer irregularities,” when the current owners were not guilty of anything at all, they were effectively demoted from the league at the end od the season before last. The authorities didn’t have the stones to do it immediately and made them play a season with such a heavy deficit that they didn’t have a hope of survival. It was cruel, far too severe and largely unnecessary as they had suffered two consecutive relegations already. Championship to non-league in two years.

  9. My feeling is that West Ham are on ground shakier than it may look and that Hull have a good chance still to save themselves.
    There’s more chance of that now that Portsmouth’s fate has been sealed by the league’s rather draconian deduction of nine points from them already meagre total. Yeah, I know it’s in the rulebook but talk about kicking a club when it’s down.
    I’m hoping Pompey pulls off a unique double — relegation balanced by the FA Cup.

  10. I don’t think that I was condescending either. This was an article about Hull City. I would appreciate Alan pointing out where I said anything that was remotely incorrect about Hull City. The article wasn’t about Sunderland and didn’t even mention us.

    Yes, I agree with you Colin. I would love to see Hull City stay up, and again as you say, just so long as it isn’t at our expense.

  11. I’ve gone through life as the reporter blaming the sub-editor for anything anyone complains about and now the boot’s on the other foot. The headline was no more than a play on words, the preamble reflected in light-hearted fashion what followed.

    I don’t think Jeremy was remotely condescending. It was an honest and really quite affectionate appraisal of the man and the club.

    Alan: Jeremy admitted in his response that our titles were long ago. In fact half of them – and there have been six top flight championships – were not even in the last century!

    You now have to be over 50 to have been alive at a time when Sunderland had never played outside what is now the Premier League, our first relegation being in 1958.

    Here is Wikipedia’s list of Hull honours:

    Football League Championship play-off winners 2007–08
    Football League One Runners-up 2004–05
    Football League Third Division Champions 1965–66
    Football League Division Three Runners-up 2003–04
    Football League Third Division Promoted 1984–85
    Football League Third Division North Champions 1932–33, 1948–49
    Football League Third Division North Runners-up 1958–59
    Football League Fourth Division Runners-up 1982–83

    That shows the gulf between our clubs historically, despite Sunderland’s last half century having been as a yo-yo club (always, with one exception, between the top two divisions, as Jeremy points out), however much we may respect what City have done in the past three seasons and even though many of us, me included, would like to see them stay up provided this was not at our expense.

  12. I have done as you ask and can see the slight difference in tone, but still view your contribution as condescending and myopic, in that your view is short sighted and also inaccurate.

    I do not understand how I would ‘ever’ consider anything about your comment; I have simply taken it at face value. To say your history is one of league titles and cup wins is technically accurate, perhaps. But then my memory – having watched the game and shared many a pint with your winning goal scorer’s brother – only recalls one major trophy and that was back in 1973 – but I was thrilled for you beating Leeds!

    Anyway, a bit of a rose tinted exaggeration methinks! Indeed we have spent time in the lower leagues and had the balls to get ourselves out of it, the Wembley goal and our league position and subsequent survival probably does define us – we don’t give up and can do this without a Sugar Daddy. Your claim about always being in the top two tiers is false and if you knew your clubs history, you would be aware of 1987 and your little trip into the old third division – don’t worry about it though, it happens to the best! (LOL)

    As for ‘your’ Frazer Campbell; when he left his loan period with us, it was Wigan and your tame Magpie that he was intent on joining – you have him now by default and you are welcome to him, simply not worth the cash! A different case with Turner, a good player and a bargain at that price. Good luck anyway. By the way, the did not say: would you have Brown as manager? Oh, a Sugar Daddy would be good if you have a spare!!

  13. I read the responses to my article and was surprised to read the negativity. I then went back and took a look at the title and the preamble (which Salut added) and I can understand your point of view now. If you go back and read the main body of text, I think that you get a slightly different perspective.

    Alan’s comments are interesting. Do you ever consider Alan that the performance of our club really has nothing at all to do with the observations that I’ve made about your club. Sunderland’s long history is one of league title and cup wins, most of which happened long before my birth. Far too long in my opinion. Dean Windass’s goal was a goal worthy of winning any competition. It was a defining moment for Hull City, and I was delighted when it went in. However, it does not define what Hull City are as a club. YorkTiger’s comments about Hull’s “natural level” have made me wonder precisely what your Tigers fans think this is. More of your recent history has been in the bottom two divisions than the top two. Maybe I was flattering you by inferring that this was the Championship (joke lads! Calm down!). We are a yo yo club as you all say. I could not agree more, but that yo yo that you refer to has always been between the top two tiers. Hull can’t even claim that. Your record is the basis of my comment. Simple facts and not my personal opinion. I like your club very much. I also like Phil Brown and wish you all well Tigers.

    Opinionated? Yes, I usually am. Myopic? Never.

  14. win the league Sunderland.. then you MIGHT have the right to bad mouth hull.. but face it, your not a good team. and that little bit about (your own) fraizer Campbell made me laugh. since footballing giants (sunderland) have got their hands on him i think its the worst ive ever seen him play. and saying that we should accept defeat and give up is true words of a true a#s ho#e. concentrate on ya own weaknesses before you can criticize others.

  15. Steve and YorkTiger make fair points, though a second season trying to cling to Premier survival is beyond question inferior as a record to being a yo-yo club throughout the Premier’s existence, with two successive top seven finishes.

    But don’t get the idea we are blind to our own failings. If you think Jeremy was harsh on Hull, wait untilyou hearthe sort of thing he says about his own club. As big a critic as you’ll find.

    Of the candidates for relegation with Pompey, I’d be happiest to see the back of Bolton and – since Blackburn seem to be doing enough to stay ckear if the drop zone – Burnley. As for us, we’re still a good two wins away from any reason to feel we’re safe.

  16. I have followed Sunderland for years as I live there and have good friends who are Mackems through and through, but I am a Tiger and must say I am disappointed by the tone and content of the blog. This is a very condescending piece of work that only deals with the reality though a somewhat myopic viewpoint.

    Hull City fans know exactly where they have come from and how we have battled for success, coming very close in years gone by. our eventual goal to promote us was a cracker by any standard and certainly not lucky, just as our third place finish was not; we qualified according to the table positions and our performances.

    We stayed up because we performed very well in the first half of the season – I do not recall commentators calling our results lucky – far from it. In fact Sunderland have do a fairly decent imitation of that this season – although I hope you have now turned your poor form around, as I enjoy our fixtures.

    Yes we struggle to sign players, so do all of the North East teams, but, as in your case and Newcastles, money can talk – but if we could have access to just the money the pair of you have wasted on mangers and players in the last 3 or 4 years then we would be sweet.

    But we are not jealous, nor do we need the opinionated advice of one who must have a stiff neck from watching his own YoYo team go up and down like whores drawers. You finished so far above us last season you obviously feel well qualified to offer us your thoughts and critique – so be it; so are you also telling me that you would welcome Brown as your manager? Dream on and enjoy your ride, who knows how long the Yank will offer his support and cash!

  17. Terry Venables and Mark Hughes reportedly are on Hull’s short-list to replace Brown. I’d say there’s no time to fiddle around with a short-list; if the team is going to get the necessary “bounce” from a new manager to survive, the appointment has to be made NOW. The fact that Brown was fired without a successor being lined up is intervention of the worst, most counter-productive kind by the board. If Hull does goes down, the blame can’t all be laid at Brown’s door.

  18. Hull City fan here, and have to say agree with most of the above – except that at some point Hull bound to fall to “natural level”. If the Premier League has a place for Bolton, Wigan, Stoke, Blackburn, Fulham, (and Sunderland!) it has a place for Hull!

    In each of the last 3 seasons Brown has though over-performed as City manager – saving us from Championship drop (at Leeds’ expense), promotion, then survival. Whatever people think of his antics (which were never ill-intended, but only hyped up by media) his results analyzed over each of the seasons were superb. Also understood working class nature of the club and city.

  19. You lot realy make me laugh, you realy are setting the prem alight with your dazzling play and plethora of goals, having been a constant in the prem for the last 30 years, ooops sorry you haven’t have you, do you not think that YOUR rightful place is in the CCC also. What have you won in the last 30 years to give you the right to talk down a club like Hull city ???? where are you in the league??? Top???? oh no you are 14th and only 7 point ahead of Hull city, get ya head from up ya a*s and keep your stupid ill informed comments to your self.

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