MR BROWN’S BOYS
Southend boss Phil Brown explains why he takes his lads about town
PHIL BROWN is looking out on Southend beach and the Esplanade he regularly runs along before training.
“I don’t stick them in there, because it’s a little bit cold now,” Brown says, gesturing towards the Thames Estuary. “But in the summer you wouldn’t believe it. Have you ever been in?”
Sadly I left my trunks at home and anyway, this is my first trip to the Essex town by the seaside.
“Well, you’ll be back,” Brown says. “I took the lads along the pier last Monday for a warmdown. Lo and behold we went to Cheltenham the next day and won, so it wasn’t bad preparation!
“It’s nice. I used to do it at Hull. I’d take them along the Humber Bridge, just to show them the area.
“There are parts of Southend lads who’ve been here three or four years don’t even know.
“I’ve been here 18 months and probably know it better than them. It’s important you know the supporters, how they tick and what they want to see on a Saturday afternoon.
“I know they want to see winning football, but they want to see it in the right way.”
We’re talking after Brown has happily posed for shots with local club Southend Manor and the FA Vase, a competition with a Wembley final the prize.
And who can blame the former Hull City and Preston North End manager for his jovial mood.
His side have just won three League Two games on the bounce – Portsmouth at home before Cheltenham and York away – to take them fourth before yesterday’s game with Shrewsbury. Living in the town means there’s no hiding place.
“You don’t want to escape,” Brown says. “You want to be in it and feel it every day.When you’re out of it, if you call that escapism you’ve got another thing coming.
“It’s a great club to be managing. The people are good as well. They’ve accepted a thick Geordie northerner in the posh end of Essex!”
In his first full season at Roots Hall, Brown guided his side into the play-offs. But ultimately they were narrowly beaten 3-2 by Burton Albion over the twolegged semi-final.
Those three wins on the bounce have shaken off any early worries of a hangover the 55year-old boss may have had.
But, an experienced and proven operator, Brown knows the road ahead is a long one as he looks to drive Southend, and himself, back up the leagues.
“We’ve had success and played in the Championship,” he says. “To get back to that is obviously the ambition. It’s taking each step as it comes. Getting in the play-offs last season was a decent achievement, because we had a lot of upheaval when I first arrived at the club. I think I made something like 24 changes – ins and outs. That takes time to settle. We did that and finished strong.
“The reality is we’re still in League Two, we’re still a good strong unit and people might fancy us so that adds a little bit of pressure.
“I just know the good core of players we’ve retained and the good players we’ve added will take us that step closer. Not just play-offs, but hopefully automatic promotion.”
CHATTY MEN: Southend manager Phil Brown. Inset: The Shrimpers’ Michael Timlin halts Burton Albion’s Lee Bell’s progress
CHATTY MEN: The FLP’s Matt Badcock with Phil Brown. Right: Southend Manor boss Wayne Seal and Brown with the FA Vase