“I’ve got a lot to thank Halifax Town for” says former Shaymen skipper Brown ahead of his return with Southend
Former Halifax Town captain Phil Brown says he is expecting a good game when he returns to the Shay with Southend United on Saturday.
Brown made 165 appearances over three seasons for Halifax between 1985 and 1988, winning the supporters’ player of the year and earning a place in the PFA Fourth Division team of the year in his final season at the club.
“Once a Shayman, always a Shaymen, that’s what they say,” Brown said.
“We had a great time, I had two or three years there, met some really nice people, settled in the area, got myself a wife and family, had a pub.
“You couldn’t say I didn’t invest in the area that’s for sure!
“We were under the John Crowther regime, I wouldn’t have said they were overly wealthy men and it was very difficult, fighting in a league that had one or two that were financially well-off and consequently, you struggled against certain teams.
“But we had a great spirit. I loved the management team of Billy Ayre and Mick Jones, I thought they were brilliant.
“They taught me an awful lot about football management, that’s for sure, and I’d say were probably one of the main reasons I went into management.
“They were a pleasure to play for, you always wore the shirt with pride when you played under them.
“We produced players, we had a good team - Alan Knill, Micky Galloway, Rick Holden.
“We tended to play the right type of football, I thought, and it stood me in good stead for my move to Bolton, so I’ve got a lot to thank Halifax Town for.”
When asked if he has been back to The Shay since leaving the club, Brown said: “I was in the hunt for signing Jamie Vardy when I was at Preston North End, me and Brian Horton visited The Shay, the first time I went back.
“We tried to get a deal on the table but the next thing you know, he’s gone to Fleetwood and the rest is history.
“I’ve got fond memories of the place. I haven’t been back too many times.
“I’ve bumped into John Crowther a couple of time, Steve Ward is a lifelong friend, he was left-back when I was right-back for a season and we’ve stayed in touch.”
Brown’s Southend side have won just one of their first four games, but they have included tough matches against big-spending Stockport and Wrexham.
“I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far because I’m piecing together a brand-new jigsaw,” said Brown, who is in his second spell at Roots Hall.
“We’ve got a brand new squad, 10 new signings, a couple of loan players and a couple of existing players that I brought to the club first time around like John White and Jason Demetriou.
“It’s like a completely new club and because of that, I’m not asking for time by any stretch of the imagination, we’ve been on back-to-back relegations.
“There’ve been a lot of managerial changes since I last left and because of that you tend to get a mish-mash of managerial experiences, ways of playing and now we’ve got to stamp our own authority on the club again.
“I’ve been pleased with the way the players have picked up on what we’re trying to do, how I’m trying to play, what I want to do to the opposition, the kind of mentality I want at the football club.
“Results haven’t been brilliant but performances against the likes of Stockport and Wrexham have been nothing short of outstanding, and yet we’ve only picked one point up from those two games.
“It’s going to be tough against Halifax, being an ex-EFL club. The league is split between ex-EFL clubs and National League clubs but you’ve got to have a common winning mentality, regardless of who you play against.”
Halifax go into the game having won two and lost two of their first four matches.
“I’ve watched them a couple of times, they’re a very organised team, they look to play the right kind of football,” said Brown.
“They’re what I would class as open and expansive, the modern day way of playing the game, which is pleasing on the eye.
“They’ve got a coach who doesn’t mind changing formations during the course of games and from one game to another, so trying to second guess the system is part and parcel of the job, but invariably you get it wrong and you have to do something in the first five minutes to make sure Halifax don’t run over us.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Brown said: “I’m expecting a good football match.
“We’re playing the right way, we know Halifax are trying to play the right way, so I’m expecting a good game of football.
“From what I can remember of the Shay, it’s a big old football pitch and I don’t think too much has changed where that’s concerned.
“The demands of the Halifax public are to play the right way, but you’ll never get away from the ‘Yorkshire grit’ mentality. There’s no such thing as a free game in Yorkshire and I’ll be drumming home that message to my players no doubt.”
Brown is aiming to guide the club straight back into the Football League after their relegation last season.
“We’re looking to get promoted, as a lot of teams are,” he said.
“I don’t think any manager, chairman or group of owners is ever going to admit they’d be happy with mid-table obscurity.
“We need to be in the thick of it at the end of the season and then you take what comes.
“I’ve been absolutely astounded at the level of support I’ve received, both on and off the field.
“The supporters have turned up in the two home games - five and a half thousand and six thousand.
“We took 1,800 to King’s Lynn and we took nearly 1,000 to Wealdstone, so whatever the ticket allocation is at Halifax, I’m sure we’ll sell out.
“I’ve been absolutely delighted with the level of support and if that continues during the course of this season then their expectancy levels will be at the top end of the division, and I share that kind of mentality.”
This is Brown’s first managerial role in non-league, but he is relishing his time in the fifth tier.
“I love it, I really love it, I think it’s brilliant,” he said.
“It’s men’s football as opposed to boys’ football, it’s proper football where you have to be physical and win the battle before you can ever start passing it around the field of play like you think you own the gaffe.
“We’ve sampled two non-league teams in King’s Lynn and Wealdstone and there was no free pass there, and then we sampled Stockport and Wrexham.
“I’m walking on the pitch before the Wealdstone game and the chairman of Wealdstone came over to me and said ‘you see the kid that Wrexham have just bought?’
“I went ‘Ben Tozer, the centre-half?’
“He said ‘Yeah. They’ve just spent our full budget on him’. So that just shows you the disparity in the league.
“But as far as I’m concerned, as soon as any team crosses the white line, forget about budgets, forget about board rooms, forget about money, it’s about you against them. You win that battle you’ve got every chance of winning a game of football, it’s as simple as that in the National League.”