Alan Brown (footballer)

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Alan Brown
Personal information
Full name Alan Winston Brown
Date of birth (1914-08-26)26 August 1914
Place of birth Corbridge, England
Date of death 8 March 1996(1996-03-08) (aged 81)
Place of death Barnstaple, England
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Playing position Centre half
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1933–1946 Huddersfield Town 57 (0)
1946–1948 Burnley 88 (0)
1948–1949 Notts County 13 (0)
Teams managed
1954–1957 Burnley
1957–1964 Sunderland
1964–1968 Sheffield Wednesday
1968–1972 Sunderland
1973–1974 Hamarkameratene
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Alan Winston Brown (26 August 1914 – 8 March 1996) was a professional footballer and manager, who played for Huddersfield Town, Burnley and Notts County. After a short spell at Sheffield Wednesday as coach he rejoined Burnley as manager before further managerial spells at Sunderland, back at Sheffield Wednesday and then Sunderland again. He was born in Corbridge, Northumberland and died in Barnstaple, Devon.

Biography[edit]

Brown is best remembered for his managerial career. Although he never won a major trophy, he was regarded as one of football's most inventive tactical minds and earned a reputation for honesty and openness amongst his peers.[1] His passion for the game is illustrated by a famous quote in which he, in all sincerity, described football as "one of the biggest things that happened in Creation."[1]

Early years[edit]

Brown was the son of a painter and decorator and was sent to Hexham Grammar School as a child. Whilst there he developed a desire to become a teacher, however, growing up during the Great Depression as part of a large working-class family, Brown's parents were unable to afford to pay for his further education. Brown's other passion was for football; however, as Hexham played rugby he had to play as a standoff half for his school side on Saturday mornings and then as a centre half for a local youth football team in the afternoons.[2] Brown was a cousin of the England international footballer Austen Campbell, who played as a half-back for Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers.[3]

Playing career[edit]

Huddersfield Town[edit]

In 1933, at the age of 16, Brown was persuaded by his cousin, who was the captain of Huddersfield Town at the time, to join the club as a trainee. Brown hoped that the club would sponsor his further education, although he soon realised that he was regarded as little more than a member of the ground staff at Huddersfield and that the club had no interest in funding his study. Unable to settle, he left the club and spent the following two and a half years as a policeman.[2]

Brown's love for football eventually led him to quit the police force but as the rules of the day did not allow players to change clubs he was forced to rejoin Huddersfield Town. He went on to make a few dozen senior appearances for the club prior to the Second World War.

Burnley[edit]

Following the war, Brown was finally given a transfer and moved to Burnley. By the opening day of the 1946–47 season he was celebrating his 32nd birthday; however, new Burnley manager Cliff Britton saw potential in the player despite his advancing years. Brown was seen as a natural leader and was given the captaincy. In his first season at the club Brown formed what became known as the "Iron Curtain Defence" with fellow defenders Reg Attwell, George Bray, Arthur Woodruff, Harold Mather and goalkeeper Jimmy Strong. Burnley earned promotion from the Second Division at the first attempt, conceding just 29 goals along the way. This figure is still a club record low in a 42-game season, Brown having played in every one. The club also reached the FA Cup final in the same year, losing 1–0 to Charlton Athletic.

Another good season followed in 1947–48 with Brown missing just six games and Burnley managing to finish third in the top division, with only goal average separating them from Manchester United in second place. The defence was again an integral part of Burnley's success, conceding just 43 goals despite the change of division, with only champions Arsenal conceding fewer.[4]

Notts County[edit]

Ten games into the 1948–49 season Burnley accepted an offer in the region of £15,000 for Brown from Notts County. This was seen as a shock move by Burnley as Brown was still club captain and a first team regular, although this was a huge amount of money at the time to recoup for a 34-year-old defender. His stay at Notts County was only short, however, and after just three months and 13 League games, Brown retired from professional football.[4]

Coaching career[edit]

Upon retiring from playing football Brown moved back to Burnley and opened a restaurant. After a few years he was persuaded by the then Secretary of the Football Association, Stanley Rous, to return to the game, and in 1951 he joined Sheffield Wednesday as a coach. After three-and-a-half seasons at Wednesday, Brown left to start a managerial career.[1]

Back to Burnley[edit]

In 1954, Brown returned once more to Burnley when he was appointed as manager. His arrival back at the club was not well received by some of the senior players at Burnley who were unhappy in anticipation of being managed by such a figure of moral integrity. Undeterred by the potential backlash, Brown set about instilling in the club the same values of integrity, hard work and honesty that he held dear.[1]

He oversaw the development of a new training centre on the outskirts of the town, and as well as using paid labour, helped to dig out the ground himself. Brown also "volunteered" several of his players to help out, including big names such as Jimmy McIlroy and Jimmy Adamson.[4]

Perhaps to compensate for his own poor treatment as a youngster, Brown – with the support of new chairman Bob Lord – developed a strong youth setup at Burnley which continued to be fruitful long after his departure. He also became known for his tactics and his pioneering use of short corners and huge array of free kick routines which were copied across the land.[5]

Brown kept Burnley in the top half of the First Division for three seasons but could not resist the opportunity to move back to the North East and manage his boyhood club, and was appointed as manager of Sunderland in 1957.[4]

Sunderland[edit]

Brown was appointed as Sunderland manager at a time when the club was in the middle of a series of scandals over illegal payments to players and was struggling at the bottom of the First Division table. Brown saw the appointment as an opportunity to "clean up" the club that he had supported as a child. At a time when paying young players' parents bribe money to sign for a particular club was commonplace, Brown refused to do so:

Despite Brown's arrival, Sunderland were relegated at the end of his first season at Roker Park. Over the following years Brown gradually turned the club's fortunes around whilst simultaneously clearing out the corruption. The club finally earned promotion back to the First Division in the 1963–64 season, however Brown shocked the fans when he quit the club at the end of the season.[1]

Sheffield Wednesday[edit]

Brown was lured to Sheffield Wednesday, and Hillsborough Stadium, which was at the time the "most sumptuously-appointed stadium in the land",[1] before the start of the 1964–65 season. The board had specifically targeted Brown with the aim of cleaning up the club in the wake of the match fixing scandal that had recently affected the Owls. Brown was well respected amongst the players and quickly restored pride in the club.[5]

Brown led the club to the FA Cup final in 1966, their first final in over 30 years. Wednesday met Everton in the final, who had made it there without conceding a goal whilst Wednesday had won every match away from home on the first attempt. Wednesday dominated for the first hour of the game going in to a 2–0 lead, but Everton mounted a comeback and went on to win the match 3–2. The game is widely regarded as one of the best finals to be held at the old Wembley.[5]

Brown remained at the club until February 1968 at which point he rejoined Sunderland.

Sunderland again and later career[edit]

Brown was relegated with Sunderland again in the 1969–70 season, and after two failed attempts to regain promotion he was sacked in November 1972.[1]

Brown spent time coaching in Norway and assisting at Plymouth Argyle.[4] He then left the game completely and spent a retirement blighted by ill health in the South West until his death in 1996.[1]

Managerial stats[edit]

Team Nat From To Record
G W L D Win %
Burnley England June 1954 June 1957 138 57 49 32 41.30
Sunderland England June 1957 June 1964 332 138 106 88 41.57
Sheffield Wednesday England July 1964 February 1968 174 60 70 44 34.48
Sunderland England February 1968 November 1972 200 60 77 63 30.00

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ivan Ponting (12 March 1996). "OVITUARY: Alan Brown". The Independent. Retrieved 3 March 2008. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c Arthur Hopcraft (1968). "Alan Brown and Absolute Trust". The Soccer Man. Archived from the original on 24 October 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2008. 
  3. ^ Simpson, Ray (1996). The Clarets Collection 1946–1996. Burnley FC. pp. 38–39. ISBN 0-9521799-0-3. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Tony Scholes (11 September 2003). "Alan Brown". The Hall of Fame. Clarets Mad. Retrieved 3 March 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c Stuart Jackson. "Alan Brown". The Sheffield Wednesday Archive. Retrieved 3 March 2008.