Brown plotting promotion at Preston
Phil Brown is arguably best known for his exploits at Hull City.
To supporters of the Tigers he was the man who took the club into the Premier League and defied the odds to keep them there (for one season at least), winning at Arsenal and Tottenham, and grabbing points at Chelsea and Liverpool.
He made headlines with his half-time team-talk on the pitch at Manchester City on Boxing Day 2008 and his ropey rendition of Sloop John B after securing survival on the final day of the season.
Brown is now hoping his upbeat and colourful management style can revive the fortunes of Preston North End, who were relegated to League One last season after a decade of second-tier football.
That has continued this summer, with high earners such as Andy Lonergan and Sean St Ledger leaving, while the out-of-contract Billy Jones left earlier in the summer and, to the chagrin of many supporters, Keith Treacy was sold to Burnley earlier this week.
Brown is confident that his North End team can win promotion. Photo: Getty Images
North End were a modest outfit who often punched above their weight in the Championship, twice reaching the play-off final. Despite the recent problems, they are now a big fish in League One, which looks very competitive. The two Sheffield clubs - United and Wednesday - Huddersfield, Charlton and Scunthorpe are among those who will fancy their chances.
One might think Brown would be keen to talk down his team's prospects of promotion. That would be wrong. Very wrong.
"What does League One look like? Hopefully it looks like Preston at the top with everyone trying to catch them," said Brown, sitting in his modest manager's office at the club's training ground on the outskirts of Preston.
"I would rather be a big scalp than not. I want to set the standard in this division and I want this to be a one-season stay.
"The people that work for Preston have got to be thinking in terms of first or second tier. That has to be the mentality for the whole group."
Season-ticket sales would suggest that, allied with some competitive pricing, Brown's unbreakable optimism has proved infectious. The club had 6,100 season-ticket holders last season. Despite relegation and the loss of key players, North End will have almost 7,000 this coming campaign.
In conversation it quickly becomes obvious that Brown wants the pressure of an expectant and large crowd. Last season he watched Sheffield Wednesday labour to a 1-0 win over Leyton Orient at Hillsborough. He noted how quickly the crowd got on the back of the home team, who struggled to cope with the pressure to succeed.
"Our biggest hurdle this season will be stopping teams coming to Deepdale and enjoying themselves but we have got to be big enough to get the ball down and play. We have got more than enough to cover what the opposition throws at us."
They also have some promising young players such as striker Jamie Proctor, who has taken the number nine shirt, and defender Conor McLaughlin. Brown is desperate to bring in an experienced left-back and following the departure of left winger Treacy his side now appears to lack balance, but otherwise he reckons PNE are raring to go ahead of Saturday's opener against Colchester.
"We will hit the ground running, we are fit and strong and a number of players have told me what they want to do and achieve. I'm not saying what it is but it's music to my ears," added Brown.
Tranmere boss Les Parry agrees that Brown will ensure PNE are competitive, suggesting they will be "fit, organised and difficult to beat".
But the Rovers manager is picking out Huddersfield as his team to watch. The Terriers have fallen short in the play-offs over the previous two seasons, with the 3-0 final defeat by Peterborough in May a particularly painful experience for boss Lee Clark.
"I know Lee quite well and he does not want to go through that hurt again," added Parry. "They might have lost Lee Peltier and Anthony Pilkington but he has brought in some good players. I saw them in pre-season and Donal McDermott, signed from Manchester City, looked a real handful."
Charlton probably win the award for most extensive summer rebuilding, with manager Chris Powell signing 15 new players so far, and a similar number leaving the Valley.
Powell won his first four games after his appointment as manager in January but lost his next four and his team's promotion challenge subsequently faded. Four years after their relegation from the top flight, Addicks fans must be desperately hoping their club's problems have bottomed out.
Brentford look like an interesting outside bet for a top-six place. Midfielder Jonathan Douglas, signed from Swindon, and striker Clayton Donaldson, who has joined from Crewe, both look like excellent signings. Parry tried to sign the Bradford-born Donaldson but could not match his wage demands.
The Sheffield derby will take place in the third tier of English football for the first time in more than 30 years. It will arguably be the biggest single fixture in the League One calendar and bring the division more into national focus.
But you can rest assured that Brown will be doing everything possible to ensure that it is Preston who spend the season hogging the limelight.