BBC BLOGS - Paul Fletcher
« Previous | Main | Next »

Brown plotting promotion at Preston

Paul Fletcher | 06:03 UK time, Thursday, 4 August 2011

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.

The 52-year-old took over at Deepdale in January with North End in the bottom three. He walked into a club in the midst of a season of cost-cutting after a takeover.

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.

Phil Brown talks to his players after a pre-season friendly.

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."

North End have brought in goalkeeper Iain Turner, Burnley defender Clark Carlisle and trialist Brian McLean this summer, while Neil Mellor is back from a season-long loan at Wednesday.

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.

You can follow me throughout the season at



  • Comment number 1.

    Wow methought the national media are actually paying PNE attention for once. But 4 quotes does not constitute an interview and most of it doesnt concern PNE but is bigging up Huddersfield! With a cursory sentence at the end just to show what the article was about. The only suprising thing in the end was that it wasnt written by our friend Claridge.

    Why was KT causing chagrin? Most fans I speak to say he stated he wanted to leave and Burnley rumours had been around for a while. A mercurial player with off field issues. Why not get the money?

  • Comment number 2.

    Paul, the line "North End were a modest outfit who often punched above their weight in the Championship, twice reaching the play-off final." is the biggest myth in north west football.

    PNE only 'punched above their weight' because 'benefactor' Trevor Hemmings was playing casino financing of the club, and was loaning between £16 - £20million depending on who you believe to get in the Premier League. Sadly, despite lots of warnings from their own fans, as well as others, most PNE fans never thought that the loans would stop and they could continue to live beyond their means ad infinitum. He's built up the debt to a level that say many 'ordinary' PNE fans who had shares in PNE Ltd, having to sell them to him at 5p a share - so they've lost their club and they've lost money too meanwhile TH continues to paid interest on the loans and gets a club for less that it used to be worth.

    He's appointed Chairmen who have either misled their supporters or have been incompetent - or both. Chairmen for example who were unable to grow the National Football Museum which has had to relocate to make it sustainable losing PNE much needed rent along the way.

    He's also overseen the appointment of some poor managers who have given average players OTT contracts and when it came down to it, couldn't instill a winning mentality to get them into the top division (although it shouldn't be a surprise as PNE have been in the play-offs (across the divisons) 8 times and never won them).

    This season has seen the loss of some 'high earners', with only Traecy (who ironically wasn't a high earner) getting a 'decent' return; that said there are plenty of PNE fans who think Burnley have stolen him - they also doubt that the money will be reinvested into the team, but back into paying down the debt.

    TH has stated through Maurice Lyndsey that he will only subsidise the club to the tune of £3million per year, so the 7000 ST holders who have got a bargain basement ST (in recognition of the division they are now in) will need to boosted by walk on fans and away fans to make the club that bit more sustainable. The good news is PNE benefit from the well known Blackpool effect; in that they get higher numbers of away fans going to the game than a 'city' of its credentials merits as it's got the Blackpool factor. Loads of away fans make a day/weekend in Blackpool and take the game in at Preston as part of that. It's why PNE will get higher numbers of away fans this year than say this seasons derby rivals Rochdale.

    The really scary thing for PNE fans is that TH won't put them into administration as it will mean HE will lost HIS money - and there isn't a chance he will do that providing he can get a return on the loans which I understand are at commercial rates of interest. It's a bit of a vicious circle, won't invest anymore, continue to take money out, wont write the debts off, can't sell the club.

    In some respects, PNE are an example of what happens the sugar daddy realises that the 18 year old virgin from the suburbs he thought he was getting was an overweight hag from the sink estate down the road and decided to stop putting his hand in his wallet but put it in his pocket and found he preferred it.

    Phil Brown has always been one to believe he's an alchemist (to match his tan) and will of course say PNE will be top of the league but there are far bigger clubs, with far better players and resources at their disposal in the lower leagues and a long stay in the lower divisions looks inevitable. From what i've seen this is being realised by the more football savvy and longstanding PNE supporters - some of their younger fans have a lot of readjusting to make in respect of being back to their natural level.

    Meanwhile at the other end of the M55.......

  • Comment number 3.

    Rochdale and Bornemouth could also surprise us. I'd love to see them promoted. MK DOns didn't do too badly last season either. will be a very interesting league and not a walkover for the Sheffield clubs by any means


  • Comment number 4.

    Meanwhile at the other ends of the M55 another club got relegated. And your point? That's just childishly hijacked an article to fly another plane over Deepdale. tsseasider, why let the truth spoil a good argument! Fool

  • Comment number 5.

    Huddersfield will go up for sure, I see PNE joining them. Play offs I think Notts County, SHU and Rochdale and possibly Stevenage (my dark horses).

    As #3 says, Bournemouth will be there as well.

    I really really fear for the Ginger Mourinho's squad. I just don't think they will even compete for the playoffs. I have them finishing just outside the relegation zone in my table.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    What he's said isn't wrong though Boardrider. TH put a lot of money into PNE chasing Premier League football. It got frittered away, and now he wants it back.

    It only takes a brief glance at PNE messageboards to realise there are some very unhappy punters out there - primarily with the stewardship of Hemmings and Lindsay.

  • Comment number 8.

    tsseasider, It sounds like you're more interested in our club than your own?? Maybe that's why our attendances will be greater than yours, because we're getting our very own Donkey Lashers coming down watching North End. Thought so. With or without this 'Blackpool Effect', I'm certain we will have more fans at Deepdale than Bloomfield Road. How many stands is it now? 4? Wow! Congratulations on that.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a Town fan, it's weird to see everyone tipping us for promotion - Martin Allen did so at the weekend, now Les Parry has, and we're tipped to win the league by every season preview I've seen so far! We've strengthened greatly and in Danny Ward and Donal McDermott I think we've made the 2 signings of the summer in the league, so we should really have a chance now that Southampton and Brighton aren't in our way. I do think we'll finish in the top 2, but the teams that worry me most in terms of competition are Preston and Charlton, as Phil Brown will no doubt get Preston flying and Charlton have signed some real quality.

  • Comment number 10.

    Last time Bury got promoted to League 1 (or Division 2 as it was at the time) we went straight up again after winning the league. Can't say I see that happening this time round, there are some pretty strong teams in the division this year. I think I'd settle for lower midtable, but given our small squad and low budget I think it's going to be a real struggle. I'm behind the mighty Shakers all the way though, Richie Barker's Barmy Army!

  • Comment number 11.

    Always raises a smile with me when preston and blackpool fans have a go at each other about who's the bigger club.

  • Comment number 12.

    As a fan of PNE for over 50 years and season ticket holder for the last 16 seasons[previously played sat. league football for 36 years] I can honestly say I've no idea what to expect this year. I'd obviously like us to win every match but of course it won't happen. I like watching other teams and appreciate tactics and skill. I'd like to forecast the leading scorers in the division. Huddersfield's Rhodes, Sheff U's Slew, Pne's Hume. [Slight bias] It seems really childish to keep badmouthing other clubs as though you are a superior being because you support a team that is currently higher up the pyramid. Relegation and promotion are all part of the equation every season. All you can do is get behind your team and hope it's your year, hope the chaiman picks the right manager, hope the manager picks the right players, hope the players don't get injured, and when it doesn't work out, come back optimistic for the next season.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think Brown was given a very hard time by all and sundry in his time in the premiership. For my money, he is a talented bloke , and I would not be surprised to see him back in the Premiership in a couple of years...

  • Comment number 14.

    Makes me chuckle Blackhole fans criticising our stewardship. I suppose Owen/Karl Oysten are a credit to their profession? Lets look at your current state, +£40 mill ish last year, where has this been spent? Not on players, certainly not that much on the ground, training facilities still a beach.....However the Latvian's got a nice car etc. The only people who have been whingeing about TH/ML are moaners in general and dont grasp that even though TH is worth millions it's not liquid and he has his limits. If you had a vintage car worth £30k you wouldnt keep on paying £5k/year upkeep. He has metaphorically, but at least he's a fan and one who saved us from winding up last year.

  • Comment number 15.

    Charlton r the team to watch this season very well organised with plenty of attacking flair rather than last seasons play the ball sideways approach.Chris Powell and Alex Dyer have one word on there lips PROMOTION

  • Comment number 16.

    Fair comment tsseasider.

    It's not hard to see where we have gone wrong, but what is pleasing(?) is that at least we are doing something about our financial situation and not burying our heads in the sand so to speak.

    I don't think we will be a top 6 side next season, but I do appreciate that there needs to be a period of adapting to the new financial restrictions and we simply do not have money to throw at trying to get promotion.

    I fully expect an established side like Huddersfield to be up there along with both Sheffield clubs and possibly Charlton. Perhaps we will see Bournemouth or even Orient pushing for a pray off place?

  • Comment number 17.

    Now then,

    Many thanks for your thoughts so far. PNE and Blackpool fans failing to see eye to eye - now that is a surprise.

    Plenty of North End fans are VERY unsure about how their team will do on the pitch this season. Lots seem to have major concerns about the long-term direction of the club. This does not seem to be bothering Phil Brown, who struck me as being very confident and very much in control. I honestly do not think he was just spouting hollow words. I really think he meant what he was saying.

    I can see why many people are tipping Huddersfield. They have a hungry young manager with an experienced backroom staff and a chairman who backs him in all the right ways.

    Fascinating viewing should be Charlton - extensive rebuilding over the summer by a young manager who is still very unproven. The Addicks are a decent club who have had a tough few years. All of their fans wish Chris Powell all the best - but can he do 'nasty' to cut it as a manager?

  • Comment number 18.

    I wonder if either club makes it to the premiership how many more comments will be on a blog about them?

  • Comment number 19.

    I think Phil Brown will do well at Preston this year.

    He likes a challenge and I'm sure he really does believe that Preston will finish top, his ego wouldn't allow him to think any other way.

    Being in a lower division suits Brownie as there is much less media attention so he doesn't get carried away with himself which was his biggest problem towards the end at Hull. He believed his own hype from when we did well in our first Prem season and so hopefully dropping back down the leagues will have done him a world of good and he will be a better manager for it.

    I will certainly have my eye on what he does there this season. If Preston manage to get a bit of momentum going Phil Brown is the right man to keep it going.

  • Comment number 20.

    Like the majority of PNE fans, I'm looking forward to getting back on Deepdale this Saturday. Phil Brown's enthusiasm and positivity is infectious and he (along with Brian Horton, of course) is probably the most valuable commodity we have had at the club in years.

    If he believes the squad is good enough to challenge for promotion, I have no reason to doubt that.

    I would be surprised if Sheff Wednesday are pushing for automatic promotion as I don't rate Megson, and in Danny Wilson, Sheff Utd have a manager who had recent difficulty in the league. I would expect Huddersfield to be right up there all season though!

  • Comment number 21.

    I thought post no.2 was quite a reasoned assessment. As usual the average PNE moron jumps up and down and throws his toys out.

    It's like when you started frothing at the gills over the 'plane stunt' said 'We are superior' and no pointing out that we got relegated will make that statement incorrect. Try and master English first and then start having a go.

  • Comment number 22.

    #2 "The good news is PNE benefit from the well known Blackpool effect; in that they get higher numbers of away fans going to the game than a 'city' of its credentials merits as it's got the Blackpool factor. Loads of away fans make a day/weekend in Blackpool and take the game in at Preston as part of that. It's why PNE will get higher numbers of away fans this year than say this seasons derby rivals Rochdale....."

    Which cloud do you live on? One thing is for certain, those (and there aren't as many as you imply) that do visit blackpool before or after the game won't REvisit as its a ****hole, an embarassment for Lancashire.

    Good post #14.

    We believe in Phil Brown, good luck lads. Onward & upward PNE, come on you whites !!!!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Anyone who knows Division 1 will know how unpredictable it can be. It is the most level division of the top 5 tiers. Bottom teams can and will beat those at the top and you can be in the play off's one season and relegated the next.

    Unfancied teams will low budgets can be deceptively well organised and effective as a "Team", and experts at picking out cheap gems from the lower divisions. Last season Orient were a good example of this and narrowly missed out on a play off place.

    Much as one admires' Brown's confidence his words could come back and bite him.. hard. I have seen many former Premiership sides come down to the "Division 3" and the weight of instant promotion and their asumption that their "Rightful position" is somewhat higher can often be their undoing.

    Without doubt there will be a couple of surprise packages who will condemn two at least of the more fancied sides to a longer spell in the lower divisions... I fancy Preston to be one of them.

  • Comment number 24.

    Many of us North End fans were content to accept that this would be team building season with youngsters given a chance to prove themsleves, and accordingly promotion may not be on the cards this season. Now there is massive excitement in some quarters because Graham Alexander, a 40 year old former defender, who can't tackle, is 'coming home'. Sadly this seems to be an orchestrated move by Mr. Hemmings to lessen the disappointment and dismay at Treacy being sold to Burnley.
    What sort of message does this send to youngsters like the promising Conor McLaughlin, who we presumed would be at right back, should he have to sit on the bench and watch a 40 year old fill the spot? Phil Brown talks of promotion - he's in dreamland. The team was not good enough to survive the Championship last season and it's been weakened this season not strengthened, so just where the challenge is coming from is a mystery to me.

  • Comment number 25.

    #24. Graham Alexander has been brought in to play in central midfield (as cover for Ashbee). Conor/Gray are not under threat by his signing. He loves PNE and will die for the cause. Get behind the Team & Manager (for the time being at least) and enjoy your football. You probably think Craig Brown did a good job!

  • Comment number 26.

    On Paper I could quite comfortably say we have a team that would compete easily in the championship. But obviously off the paper contributions of poor management and loanees from Timbuktu led us to league 1.
    What I can see is good quality signings, the likes of Turner/Carlisle/Alexander have Premier League experience. With what we have already and the promotion of youth seems to have worked in pre-season with Proctor the highlight finding the net in every start.
    What we have in PB is that same experience of the Premier League, that will put the frame of mind for the biggest games.
    The biggest threat for other teams is Iain Hume if this fella is in the mood we could be fighting teams off him in January but with the addition of Mellor and the rise of Proctor I think with the right service we could be quite daunting to play against.

    If we hit the ground running as PB states we could well have ourselves a bounceback season. If we get fans onside behind the team home and away we won't be liked very much but we wont care.
    I see the biggest threat from the Steel City especially United their home crowd is one of the most intimidating crowds for the opposition but they are as quick to jump on the backs when things aren't going well.
    Our starting 11 (Turner, McLaughlin, Carlisle, Morgan, McLine, Alexander, Nicholson Coutts, Barton , Mellor and Hume) is Championship Standard but behind that is not much substance so fitness will be the key to our season.

    I'm not going to say we will win it because that's arrogant. We have one intention and that's Championship football next season.

    Good Luck to the rest


  • Comment number 27.

    League One? Huddersfield and Preston with a surprise package possibly being Chesterfield. Unlikely either Sheffield side will do much this term but a good bet next time

  • Comment number 28.

    Then come 6th August and Col U turn up...

    2-4 away win.

    Welcome to League 1 PNE ...and thanks for the three points!

    Col U rule ok!

  • Comment number 29.

    A blip or back to the drawing board for Mr Brown?...not so easy this league 1 thingy.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well saturday didn't go to plan. Thought we was the better team but some really bad defensive mistakes cost us.
    A couple of positives though:
    Graham slotted well back into the team (and should have been captain), he looked up for it and played well with coutts (goal of the season)
    Hopefully with 2 full backs playing in that team will help balance the defence out.
    It's not all doom and gloom yet it's only one game.
    Keep the faith
    Up the whites.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.