By Tony Attwood and Gerry McLeod
17 March 2009 is not a day that Hull City FC are likely to want to remember. It was the day on which their increasingly erratic and downright odd Hull manager Phil Brown claimed that he had seen Cesc Fàbregas spit at the Hull assistant manager Brian Horton at the end of the defeat of Hull City in the FA Cup.
On 22 May 2009 Cesc was cleared of this and various other wild allegations made, such that Cesc had no right to be on the pitch at that moment (Cesc was recovering from knee surgery, and joined the team on the pitch at the final whistle), that Cesc was improperly dressed (!) , and that Arsène Wenger had refused to shake his hand at one of the two previous games between the clubs that season. He also said, “Arsene Wenger got my goalkeeper booked. You call that good management? He was complaining about time-wasting. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
There was little doubt that any of the allegations were the slightest bit true, not least because of video footage of such things as the Wenger handshakes. There was of course no rule that said that Cesc should not be on the pitch after a game in which he did not play. As the FA explained later, Hull’s claims were further undermined by the fact that they initially dismissed the video evidence. Then they changed their mind. It didn’t make for a coherent case.
But despite his abject humiliation in making such crazed accusations and then losing the whole case Phil Brown was not finished as he turned on the ref Mike Riley. He denied the offence of insulting the referee – bolstering the view that he thought of himself as never being to blame while everyone else was, and was duly found guilty, fined and warned about his future conduct.
So what turned Brown into this sort of guy, for he was not always like this, being the man who took Hull from the possibility of relegation to League One to the Premier League, for the first time in the 2008 play off final.
Maybe it was that success that went to his head; that and the 28 September 2008 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates. At that time Hull went on to beat Tottenham (who were bottom of the league at the time) and Brown became Manger of the Month. Hull were third in the table behind Liverpool and Arsenal.
Maybe it was that success that went to his head, and the 28 September 2008 victory over Arsenal 1-2 at the Ems – making them only the second team to beat Arsenal there. At that time Hull went on to beat Tottenham (not hard as they were bottom of the league at the time) and Brown was Manager-of-the-Month. Hull were third in the league behind Liverpool and Arsenal. It was a remarkable achievement.
But as history shows, some can take rags to riches, and can deal with the inevitable drop back in fortune, and some can’t – and it looks like Brown was one of those. In November 2008 he was fined £1,000 and warned following an improper conduct charge after losing 5-0 to Wigan.
On 26 December 2008 after a poor first half against Manchester City he held his half-time team-talk on the pitch. In January 2009 he was charged with misconduct after an FA Cup tie v Newcastle where he abused Newcastle’s assistant manager Chris Hughton. He was fined and warned.
On another occasion he grabbed a microphone and sang to the Hull crowd – although for that he was not fined. But there was a £40,000 fine for his, and his teams behaviour during and after the match in which Arsenal beat Hull 3–0 on December 19 2009.
On 15 March 2010 Brown was put out to grass, his final match being a 1-2 home defeat to Arsenal on 13 March 2010. Going wild was excusable while winning, but not while losing.
He became manager of Preston on 6 January 2011 and on 14 December 2011 he left the club “with immediate effect”. On 25 March 2013 he became manager of Southend.