When Phil Brown arrived at Kidderminster Harriers in January, things did not go well. Defeat at Rochdale left the club not only bottom of the National League but seven points from safety. What has happened since then has been amazing.
Brown has guided Kidderminster to four wins in his four games in charge. That’s as many as they’ve won all season. Improbably, although they are still in the relegation zone, they are now just seven points off the top half of the table. Faith has been restored.
“We were so far away that people were already saying we were dead and buried,” Brown says Sky Sports. “Players were looking at the league table and telling them they are at the bottom and they need snookers to get out. But I’m a good snooker player.”
He laughs. It’s a good line, given a familiar twinkle. Brown has done much more than this, of course. But the man who took Hull City to the Premier League and kept them in the top flight is enjoying his new role.
Now 64 and having worked in India and back since his Hull days, he was last seen helping Barrow stay in the Football League last year. “We had nine games to go and what we wanted was very clear because we were close to the end of the season.”
The work at Kidderminster seemed so difficult, the change was so necessary. What made him take this charge? “I wanted a good club with good people who had a reason. I think I found that,” he explains.
“To be honest with you, I’ve looked at their results so far this season. I’ve been really shocked and surprised at how many games Kidderminster have been leading late and drawing or losing and losing the game. Late.
“One goal or one minute was the difference. I looked at the results and thought to myself that if I can just turn the corner in one or two games and convince the players that if they do certain things and do them well, then there will be an opportunity here.”
And so it proved. His two away games were 1-0 wins. The architecture of the building has been very impressive. Twice Kidderminster have fallen two goals behind. Twice they combined amazingly to take all three points. Aggborough is rocking again.
Oxford City’s victory in the final provided Brown a glimpse into his time at Kidderminster so far. He was fired. It wasn’t the obvious decision about his love but what happened next that stayed with him for days since then.
“I was in the changing room watching the game with my wife, my daughter and my son. When the third goal went in, after I had been with Kidderminster for three or four weeks, my wife Jade stepped up a lot. Nobody saw it apart from us.
“No one can doubt Brown’s commitment because I saw my wife running in the locker room because we had a third goal. If my wife is in it 100 percent, I can be in it 100 percent, too.”
The man who signed up for the Premier League beat Arsene Wenger and England’s past and present bosses are still being beaten in the game. “There’s nothing better than standing on the line trying to fix the opponent’s downfall.”
But how did he convert?
He is careful to give credit to Russell Penn. “I thank him for building a team that works hard. That was there.” He watched keeper Jimmy O’Connor manage a penalty win in the FA Trophy. “There was something to work on,” he adds.
“I learned one word in India and that was it imandari – and that means loyalty. If you find a group of honest players working for you is a wonderful feeling. Win, lose or draw, as a manager, you can put your hands up and you can be happy. “
The band was in desperate need of a new voice and Brown tried to connect as soon as possible. “This is what I did on the first day. I explained it to them. They must have thought I was ‘crazy’ because I was telling them one or two stories that will stay in the house.”
Brown has many stories. There are others from his days as Sam Allardyce’s assistant at Bolton Wanderers. The club finished sixth in the Premier League in his final season there, assembling a very impressive squad.
There was a time when the kitman stuck Ricardo Gardner at left back on the whiteboard and Allardyce liked the idea so he played him there for years. Or one with high-end headphones with an open line that takes local pizza orders.
It’s the stuff of after-dinner speeches but the truth is that Allardyce and Brown were ahead of their time. Their excellent understanding of the transfer market and the analysis of the game carried out by the club helped Bolton to always succeed.
“We were struggling,” Brown says. “Especially in that period from 1999 to 2001 in the Premier League when we had the smallest budget, the smallest team, the worst group of players and the largest number of people. But we had this way of playing.”
The transfer question is something that Allardyce has had to defend over the years. Brown has his own explanations. “It was criticized by the two words ‘long ball’ but it was all about what happened after long ball. What happened was the second ball,” he says.
“Everyone is talking about recovery and change now. It’s winning the second ball, basically. Win enough and if you have good players, you’re going to hurt everyone. That’s what we did at Bolton. We won the second ball and we were. between them and hurting people.”
In Kidderminster, he is supported by Neil McDonald, who was a Bolton employee. They are still trying to steal the boat. “We have the rules in place. If you put those boxes in place, it can be a winning formula. And they have a group of players who are buying it,” he says.
“It’s hard to stick to your beliefs. My advice to any young coach would be to be honest. It’s very important because when you’re trying to be someone else and you don’t really believe it, and you look at white people. in front of your players, they will see it.
They are believers in Aggborough now.
And yet, still bottom of the table after winning that first game against Aldershot, it only underlined the situation. After a second win followed by a third, they managed to catch one of the top teams.
“But then you win four in a tournament and all of a sudden you’ve got three. It’s just about everybody playing on the same page. Nobody’s leaving. If they do, they’ll find themselves sitting next to me, no. It doesn’t matter who they are.”
Brown still has a way and a voice. “If you have the respect of your opponents, don’t disappoint them.” But his team is helping with their actions. He is happy but cautious. “If someone thinks they’ve messed up the game, they don’t know the half of how to bite you,” he adds.
“We are not there just thinking but we are going in the right direction, there is a lot of work to do, we have to complete the work, we were brought to stay in this sector, we are nowhere near anywhere. that, we have just started well.”
Regardless, this is the most surprising development in English football right now. For a manager who has won the Premier League, he is in excellent training, where can he keep the team in the fifth place in the country on the list of achievements?
“If Kidderminster Harriers is a National League club next season, I can say, directly, this would be one of the most important things in my career. Taking the club from oblivion to survival would be a great achievement,” he says. “But there is a long way to go.”