Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Phil Brown puts the roar into Hull's Tigers


This piece of mine on the remarkable Hull City manmager Phil Brown (pictured above), appears in the First Post. With his intelligence and tactical prowess Brown is raising the reputation of English football coaches and is as unlike the manager 'Alan Latchley' the late Peter Cook's hilarious comedy creation, as one can imagine. If you've never seen 'Alan Latchley' impart his 'wisdom' on the Clive Anderson Show, you can watch it below- it's quite simply one of the funniest interviews you'll ever see in your life.

What is it about Hull and its men in dark suits? Philip Larkin, the poet never seen without a collar and tie; John Prescott MP, who asked "What are chinos?" when Tony Blair requested that he dress down for dinner; and now Phil Brown, manager of Hull City, always patrolling the touchline in his nifty black suit, urging his team on to greater triumph.

Before this season, Hull City had never played in the top flight of English football. They now sit proudly in third place in the Premier League, just three points behind leaders Chelsea and ahead of both Manchester United and Arsenal.

Hull's incredible metamorphosis dates from December 2006, when Brown took over. Hull were then facing relegation to the third tier. Not only did Brown save 'The Tigers' from the drop, he also led them to promotion to the Premiership in his first full season.

A journeyman footballer, who plied his trade at lower-division clubs such as Hartlepool and Halifax, Brown later worked for six years as the right-hand man to Sam Allardyce at Bolton, during which time the Lancashire side became established as a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League.

Under Allardyce and Brown, Bolton became renowned for their intelligent tactics, frequently getting the better of the Premiership's more illustrious clubs, and Brown has clearly put the experience to good use. This season, he has out-witted internationally respected football managers such as Arsene Wenger and Juande Ramos in Europe's top league.

Wenger was taken completely by surprise last month by Hull's positive, attacking approach. Eschewing the overly-defensive approach most teams adopt at Arsenal, Brown played with two strikers and put talented Brazilian Geovanni on the left-wing, from where he scored a brilliant equaliser. Wenger was so stunned by the subsequent defeat he referred to Hull as "West Brom" in the post-match press conference.

A week later, 49-year-old Brown took his side to Tottenham, where his tactics once more flummoxed the opposition, with Hull winning 1-0. On Sunday, in the match against West Ham, Brown again showed his tactical prowess, making half-time changes to his team's formation which changed the course of the game and led to another Hull victory.

In England, we tend to think that our managers, while being good motivators, are tactically inferior to European coaches. The late Peter Cook's hilarious comedy creation, manager 'Alan Latchley', who thinks football is only about "the three Ms: motivation, motivation, motivation and motivation" springs readily to mind. Brown has already done much to destroy the stereotype.

Will he last the course, and grow into a truly great British manager – a Brian Clough or Bill Shankly? Maybe. The fate of his mentor Sam Allardyce, who left Bolton for Newcastle only to lose his job eight months later, should help keep his feet firmly on the ground.



3 comments:

DBC Reed said...

Re Alan Latchley.There is a myth among Northampton Town supporters that Malcolm Musgrove , a visiting manager(with Torquay?)once hollered "Just kick it!" at his side to the consternation of the Cobblers' fans.In fact he shouted " Run!Kick!Shoot!"which covered more aspects of the game but still left the comparatively sophisticated Hotel End in stunned silence.

Nick said...

There are more good English managers than people realise, but they are mostly doing their work away from the headlines and baubles of the Premier League. Roy Hodgson is an exception, though. He really should be at the helm of one of the big 4, but instead only Fulham appreciate his real talents. He's well-travelled, urbane and cosmopolitan ... and held in higher regard in Europe than he is at home. Steve Coppell's another. A fine winger in his day - easily as good as Beckham - but again, forced to ply his trade with less fashionable clubs. I'm no Colonel Blimp, but until English managers are allowed to prove their worth with the big clubs, win trophies and gain experience competing in European club competition, then I cannot see where the next manger of England will come from. I've always followed Italian football closely, and while Inter are currently managed by Mourinho, the rest of the big clubs - Juventus, AC Milan, Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio - are managed by Italians. Notable exceptions aside, that has generally always been the case, and Italy has a far better record at international tournaments than England. More often than not, the manager of Italy will be closely identified with either Milan or Juventus.

Neil Clark said...

Great one, Dbc. I remember Musgrave and think he was with Torquay.
Nick- fully agreed. Hosdgson is excellent. He was manager of Switzerland when I was working over there and he did an excellent job taking them to the knock-out stages of the '94 World Cup. Last year he performed a minor miracle with Fulham, transforing them from a very unattractive team that looked doomed to relegation, into an attractive side that played good football (and which stayed up!)