After an undistinguished career in semi-professional football in his native north-east England, Brown joined Sheffield Wednesday as a scout. In 1911 he joined Portsmouth as secretary, a job he held for nine years. In May 1920 he was appointed manager of Gillingham in preparation for the club's first ever season in the Football League, but he resigned just four weeks later, before the team had even played its first League match, in order to take charge at Sheffield Wednesday. He guided his club to promotion to the First Division in 1925 and then on to consecutive league titles in 1929 and 1930. After thirteen years in charge at Hillsborough he retired from football management in 1933, soon after the death of his wife. In 1935 he collapsed at Leeds train station and died 24 hours later. He was buried at Wadsley, Sheffield.