Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back In The Brown Stuff

"The ego has (crash) landed"

Phil Brown’s Hull City have finally managed to win a game, squeezing past their fellow Northern strugglers Bolton Wanderers by one goal to nil. Big deal, but this was only their second victory in twenty-five matches. Hey, Mr. Tangerine Man, play a song for me.

You might think that one win would be no reason for bursting into song, but by the same token you would have not expected the perma-tanned buffoon to grab the mike last May to celebrate the narrowest of escapes from relegation by “serenading” the crowd. The Hull manager’s cringeworthy performance was as off-key as his team’s had been during the last few months of the season, but Brown’s lack of embarrassment knew no bounds. His “Delia Smith” moment only came about because Newcastle and Middlesbrough were even worse than Hull, who only won once in the new year, gaining just eight points in the second half of last season. Never mind – let’s celebrate as if we had won the league, cup and lottery.

"Escaped relegation by the skin of his teeth"

Hull actually started last season very well, but it’s not as if they were the first promoted team to catch others with their guard down in their initial campaign. However, the early success went straight to Brown’s head and his mismanagement of the club over the second half of the season will go down in history as a textbook example of a man believing his own publicity. Hull were perfect “half season wonders” and the manager was no longer “Golden Brown” – except for the David Dickinson complexion, which made you think he’d been soaked in wood stain overnight.

It was obvious that Hull would need to reinforce their squad over the summer, so Brown has spent the last few weeks frantically looking for new faces. This was his top priority - once he had completed months of media work in a vain (pun intended) attempt to boost his profile, including a useless ego trip to China, so that his team could take part in the extremely important Barclays Asia Trophy.

However, it seems like nobody wants to come to Hull, as they have been turned down by (deep breath) Michael Owen, Fraizer Campbell, Marc-Antoine Fortuné, Bobby Zamora, Darren Bent, Daryl Murphy and Alvaro Negredo. To date, they have only managed to pick up non-entities like Jozy Altidore, Seyi Olofinjana and Kamel Ghilas plus the want-away Reading workhorse, Stephen Hunt. Even the Altidore deal was almost screwed up by Brown in a pointless argument with US Soccer, as he complained about the delay caused by the small matter of the USA’s World Cup qualifying match against Mexico.

"Rare example of Phil Brown not showing his face"

How bad a salesman must Phil Brown be? Negredo actually made the trip from Madrid to Humberside, but the deal collapsed once he met Brown face-to-face. I don’t know whether Brown’s reputation had preceded him to Spain, but there is not one footballer in the UK that could fail to be put off by the infamous dressing down Brown handed out to his players on the pitch at Manchester City. The Hull boss acted like a madman that day: a managerial novice who thought he had mastered professional football management to the extent that he could do or say whatever he wanted to his players, including humiliating them in public, and yet still count on their unreserved loyalty and respect.

Brown’s transfer dealings might also stand more chance of success if he would only keep his big mouth shut about his intended targets. He is the only Premier League manager who seems to conduct all of his transfer business via Sky Sports News. He cannot resist the lure of the camera and has given us a blow-by-blow account of each and every transfer dealing that he has attempted: which players he is interested in, whether he has had talks with them, how the talks went, the size of the transfer fee, the wages the player was requesting, what colour suit he was wearing, whether he dunked his biscuit in his cup of tea, etc, etc.

Does he not consider for one moment that his total lack of discretion might actually deter players from signing for Hull? Certainly Michael Owen took a thinly veiled swipe at Hull after signing for Manchester United, “There are some clubs who like to come out and say they want to sign you. It gives the fans a lift that they are going for a player like Michael Owen, but I could have gone to a number of other clubs who were going about things quietly.”

Despite his limited success in the transfer market, Brown informed the world that “we’re by far a stronger team and better equipped”. That boast came before his side’s opening day defeat against Chelsea, after which he blundered his way in front of a microphone (what’s new?) and immediately slaughtered his signings, “We had three or four new players on show who are learning all about Phil Brown and what it is like to play for Hull City”.

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away"

Next up were perennial under-achievers Tottenham, who thrashed Hull 5-1 at the KC Stadium. Once again it was all the fault of the players, according to tactical genius, Phil Brown, “There is no excuse for not working hard enough and not working towards the game plan and one or two didn't. We certainly need better players. We need players that are going to do the job for Hull City to the best of their ability and are going to listen to instructions I give before we go out there.” Right, now I understand: if only the players had followed Big Phil’s brilliant coaching, then they would not have been humped. Unless they were better players of course …

You know what you should have done, Phil? You should have marched your players out of the dressing room, so that you could give them a real bollocking in front of the fans. Oh, hang on …

We’ve been here before. Any problems are down to the players and in no way attributable to the Sun (bed) King. Even when apparently owning up to mistakes, Brown somehow manages to deflect the blame towards his squad, “Of course I made mistakes. I think we all did. Maybe the fact that I trusted everyone the same on Christmas Day; hence the reason why we got such a disappointing performance on Boxing Day.”

In the defeat against Spurs, we witnessed a classic Phil Brown “look at me” moment when he substituted his striker, Daniel Cousin, after only twenty minutes. Brown may have thought that this move was somehow reminiscent of the mercurial genius of Brian Clough, but that only brings to mind a memorable exchange during the 1988 United States vice-presidential debate, when Lloyd Bentsen beautifully deflated Dan Quayle with the put-down, “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”. And you Phil Brown are not fit to lace Brian Clough’s boots.

Although Brown is apparently the co-owner of a racehorse called “Gifted Leader”, any evidence of inspirational management appears to have disappeared, which is hardly surprising when you consider that he managed to lose the entire dressing room. When it comes to motivational skills, he is more David Brent than Mr. Motivator – and not just because of the absurd goatee that he occasionally sports. Last week Brown replaced a scheduled training session with a walk to Hull’s derelict old Boothferry Park ground, for once finding the right sound bite for his pals in the media, “The players probably thought I was mental”. Well you said it, big boy. Still, at least the players turned up for this team bonding event, which was more than they did last season after Brent organised a similar touchy-feely session at the races, when most decided that it would be a waste of time.

"Liar, liar, pants on fire"

To be fair, there is one group that Brown appears able to motivate amazingly well: opposing teams. The first example of Tango Man’s words putting unnecessary pressure on his players came in the Championship, when he started talking of “psychological” victories in their tussle with Stoke to secure automatic promotion. All this succeeded in doing was to motivate the Stoke team to secure the result they required. The popular de-motivational speaker (and occasional manager) then let it be known that Sunderland had wasted a huge amount of money on transfers, kindly writing Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia’s team talk for him: “Motivation-wise it wasn’t a problem, because we just put the stuff on the walls what Phil Brown said about Sunderland Football Club”.

You have to wonder when Brown finds time to coach his team, given that his grinning mug can be seen on television every time you turn on Sky Sports News, whose correspondent must have his own office at the KC. Brown’s love of the television studio has not gone unnoticed by his fellow managers either with Roy Keane comparing their reactions to a good result against Arsenal: “I won’t be on television programmes going on about it like some other managers have been”. Poor results have not stopped Brown giving us the benefit of his views on every TV programme around, culminating in a vomit-inducing appearance on last week’s “Goals on Sunday”, when he sported a pink sweater casually draped over his shoulders like a refugee from The Style Council.

"Shout to the top!"

In his case, the long hot summer has obviously not passed him by, as his tan is now so dark that it looks like we might soon have only the second black manager in the Premier League following Paul Ince’s brief tenure at Blackburn. Brown even made Chris Kamara look pale. Certainly, few men have ever been blessed with such an apt surname. Brown’s transformation into a black man is like watching Michael Jackson’s life in reverse. Hey, Phil, don’t stop ‘til you get enough (tan). Don’t blame me for the cheap gags – he made his (sun) bed, now he’s got to lie in it.

Most managers who had escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth would step out of the limelight and concentrate on managing the team, but not if you have the gigantic ego of the orange one. The players at Hull must feel that they are in fact only bit players in The Phil Brown Show. You get the feeling that if Brown were an ice cream, he would lick himself to death. As a manager, he has not really achieved anything of great note, so he should really shut his big mouth and get on with his job.

Most managers who bring unfashionable clubs into the Premier League and experience a degree of success are usually quite popular with neutrals, but this is simply not the case for Hull City, almost entirely due to their detested manager. The arrogance, the lack of dignity, the Madonna microphone, the ostentatious pitch-side gestures, the perma tan, the references to himself in the third person and the eagerness to talk to every media outlet possible – all of these have put us off.

"You're so vain, you probably think this blog is about you"

It may be that top flight football has simply gone to Brown’s head, as his playing career went no further than Hartlepool, Halifax Town, Bolton Wanderers (where he first came under the ample wing of Fat Sam) and Blackpool. But that cannot be the answer if you consider that many top managers had very limited playing experience, Arsene Wenger and Arrigo Sacchi to name just two. Brown just cannot help placing himself in the same bracket as great managers. In the run-up to last season’s crucial match against Manchester United, he incessantly referred to “Sir Alex”, as if the two were near equals, only separated by the odd trophy or ten. He recently claimed that Hull would soon be playing in Europe: “A European place would be the ultimate aim, either through winning a trophy or by way of standing in the Premier League. How long that would take, I've got my personal ambitions. All I can say is that it will be in the near future”.

At times, I almost feel sorry for Phil Brown, as he appears to be losing his grip on reality. Managing in the Premier League is a very stressful job, so the best advice I could give him would be to take time off and seek medical treatment. Failing that, how about a little humility, some tact and a bit of praise for your players? On the other hand, why not stay exactly as you are, because for a blogger, you really are the gift that keeps on giving.

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