Riding on the Back of Tigers: Au Revoir, Phil Brown

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Riding on the Back of Tigers: Au Revoir, Phil Brown
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

It was announced today after a very protracted negotiation process that Hull City's most successful manger, Phil Brown, would officially part company with the club.

Brown had been on "Gardening Leave" since March 15, with Adam Pearson the then club Chairman handing the day to coaching of the club to "Temporary Management Consultant" Iain Dowie.

Unfortunately for Pearson, his gamble failed to bear fruit, and the Tigers slipped into the Championship with a whimper.

However, after such a glorious and tempestuous tenure in charge of East Yorkshire's finest football club, it is only fitting that we look at Brown's time riding on the back of the Tigers.

When Paul Duffen appointed Phil Brown to the post of Hull City manager in 2006 after he had been brought in by Adam Pearson to help struggling young manager Phil Parkinson, it was seen as a bit of an uninspiring choice, and not a little bit worrying for some after his unsuccessful tenure at Derby County.

However, with the new manager effect, Brown managed to save the club from relegation and help sink local rivals Leeds United in the process. For this alone, Brown would be engraved in Hull City folklore.

The Tigers would go from strength to strength, playing at Wembley Stadium for the first time in the club's history, winning promotion to the top flight for the first time in 104 years of existence and surviving to fight for a second season in the top flight. All this whilst under the control of Phil Brown.

Duffen had come in with the standard three-year plan of year-on-year growth with the objective of promotion to the Premiership by year three.

The on-field plan was even more successful than expected, with Brown's Tigers winning promotion well within the first year, through the Wembley Playoff Final.

The year 2008 will forever live long in the memories of Hull City fans. It started with the Phil Brown's Tigers riding high in eighth place in the Coca Cola Championship after fighting relegation the season before.

The rest of the regular season would see the Tigers winning 11 of the next 24 regular season games and drawing five, which would be enough to see them through to the Championship play-offs in third place behind West Brom and Stoke City.

The Play-off Semi-Final was against pre-season favourites for automatic promotion Watford. The Tigers provided a 6-1 (on agg) demolition of the Hornets.

This saw Hull City head for Wembley Stadium for the first time in their history to play against a Bristol City side that were hoping to get back into the top flight for the first time in over 25 years.

The stage was set for a nail-biting match but for fans who weren't involved it was pretty much a dire affair that will be remembered for one of the best goals to have ever been scored at either the new or the old Wembley stadiums.

On 38 minutes, Fraizer Campbell received a threaded pass through the Bristol City midfield and weaved his way through the Bristol defence, taking the ball to the edge of the six yards box.

But instead of taking a shot on goal, the on-loan Manchester United striker saw the old war horse Dean Windass running to the edge of the box, and cleverly chipped the ball to the free Windass—who hit the ball sweetly on the volley into the top corner of the net, despite the despairing dive of the the Bristol City goalkeeper.

1-0 to the Tigers, and that is how the team got to the top flight of English football for the first time in their history, with a goal from a local lad who had saved us from bankruptcy by being sold many years ago in his prime, only to come back and save the club from relegation the year before and to be the oldest player to score at Wembley Stadium.

Conventional wisdom has it that the team winning promotion from the play-offs is at a disadvantage by being three weeks behind everyone else in preparing for the new season.

Phil Brown and Paul Duffen the Hull City Chairman didn't agree with this, they held the belief that we were ahead of the rest of the Premiership teams as we were fitter than the rest because we hadn't had the lay off that other clubs had had.

The battle plans were drawn up and new recruits were brought in: Geovanni from Manchester City on a free transfer, Anthony Gardner from Tottenham Hotspur, Marlon King on loan from Wigan, Kamil Zayette from Young Boys of Zurich on loan, Bernard Mendy from Paris St Germain, Peter Halmosi from Plymouth Argyle, and George Boateng from Middlesbrough. 

After an indifferent pre-season, the opener against Fulham would be at at the KC stadium in front of a sell out crowd or Tigers fans, and they wouldn't be disappointed.

As Ian Ashbee lead out the Tigers on that warm August day with fellow Hull City players Boaz Myhill and Andy Dawson, it is worth remembering that these three special players have been with the Tigers all the way from the Coca Cola League Two through to the Premiership.

Indeed Ian Ashbee has the distinction of being the only player to have captained his club through all four professional English divisions.

After going behind to an early goal from Fulham's Seol Ki-Hyeon in the 8th minute, a sublime strike from Geovanni on 22 minutes saw the Tigers go in at half-time all square.

In a game were the established Premiership side were supposed to be in control it was hardly the case and on 81 minutes Hull City sub Caleb Folan popped up and grabbed a late winner after some tenacious play from Craig Fagan, who stole the ball off of a Fulham defender on the edge of their box.

The season would carry on in this vein with Phil Brown's Tigers gaining confidence with every match. Even after the 0-5 thrashing to Wigan the Tigers resolutely stuck to their principles and played fast paced counter attacking football built on a solid hard working team performances.

The highlight of the season was the four game winning streak which included wins against Arsenal (this at the Emirates on only the second time Arsenal had lost there since moving to the new ground), Tottenham, and West Ham.

There were also some other notable games last season, against Everton we out played them for 75 minutes only to let them back into it in the last 15 minutes. After losing easily to Chelsea the Tigers traveled to Manchester United at Old Trafford and gave them the scare of their life in a gritty 4-3 loss.

Liverpool were lucky to scrape a 2-2 draw with the help of some dubious refereeing. The 2-1 victory against Newcastle United when they were in turmoil helped to give the Tigers belief that they could compete in the Premiership.


The season has had it's ups and downs, more ups to be sure but the season  ended on a low for the Tigers. Only seven points from the last 11 games and three losses on the bounce was not mid-table form but relegation form.

However, there was some hope to come out of the end of last season, with a few exceptions we have proven we are a very difficult team to beat.

Yes, there were heavy losses, in two of the last three games, but the loss to Sunderland was a game ruined by a poor sending off and a deflected goal. The first half against Manchester City was one of the best displays of attacking football I have seen for some time—and added to the fact that Hull City had one of their most lacklustre performances for that first half display added to our misery.

January brought a record breaking transfer in the shape Jimmy Bullard from Fulham and with him huge wages. The signing was also accompanied with a very suspect medical that was a toss up as to whether he was actually fit.

Bullard's signature was an attempt to stem the loss of form that was seeing the club slip down the able after the stellar start to the campaign. Unfortunately, he re-injured his anterior cruciate ligament on his debut for the Tigers, with in 40 minutes.

Duffen failed to file the clubs tax returns for the promotion season by almost nine months and they did not prove to be comforting reading for Hull City fans, and with Duffen and Brown intertwined it didn't look good for Brown as well as Duffen. From being a club on a stable financial footing to a club on the brink of financial meltdown in the space of a year.

From Brown and the Tigers reaping all the plaudits and fanfare of the clubs meteoric start to their first season in the best league in World football, the season ended with a whimper. Scraping survival on the last day of the season because other teams were poorer than the Tigers.

Brown's on field rendition of Hull City favourite, "the best trip I've ever been on" was roundly condemned by football fans of other clubs and pundits for its hubris considering just how lucky the Tigers had been in winning survival.

The last day Houdini act meant that the Brown and Hull City seriously needed to find new blood to bolster a team that had the Premier Leagues second worst defence, and the one of the worst home records ever recorded in Premiership history.

Hull City's Championship goal scoring hero Fraizer Campbell was a major target for Brown, from Manchester United and a fee of around £6 million was accepted but Campbell was away on England Under-21 at the European Nation's Cup, and he stalled to the point that he joined Sunderland.

Michael Owen was also a summer target for Brown after getting relegated with Newcastle, but when Manchester United came calling, the Brown lost out again. Marc-Antoine Fortune was targeted but he chose to team up with his former manager at Celtic rather than signing with the Tigers.

It was looking like Brown was the Bridesmaid never the Bride in his attempts to sign a much needed Striker. The tabloid press and some of the Tiger-nation blamed the lack of a solid second half of the season on Brown's on field dressing down of the players at Eastlands.

Then came the signatures of Stephen Hunt from Reading for £3.5million, and Seyi Olofinjana for £3million from Stoke City, Kamel Ghilas from Celta Vigo for £1.7 and Jozy Altidore the young American striker on loan from Villareal. Leaving the club and it's fans feeling better about the club and Brown's signings.

The Brown also managed to captured the signature of the Dutch international Jan Vanegoor of Hesselink who was out of contract after rejecting a contract at Celtic during the summer.

However, during this period the experienced Sam Ricketts was sold to rivals Bolton Wanderers with no replacement immediately on the horizon, which seemed to be a very bizarre turn of events. This was to look even stranger when at the start of the season Michael Turner, arguably the Tiger's best player was sold to Sunderland for an undisclosed fee, with Paul McShane going in the opposite direction.

The new season continued as the last one ended with the team playing back to the wall football and conceding goals like the Titanic taking in water, and the strikers failing to find the net.

The new signings brought with them huge wages with the club allegedly having an annual wage bill in the region of £40 million, which puts the club as the seventh highest in the Premiership. Add to this the £5 million that the club paid out to player agents involved in the transfers and it is not looking rosy for the club.

The financial miss steps ultimately lead to the resignation of Duffen as the Club Chairman, and with the late filling of the Club's taxes and his inability to get any of the high profile signings that the Club targeted it was proving harder for Duffen to have any credibility.

Duffen's staunch faith in Brown did not helped him keep his position. Duffen backed his manager and friend on a number of occasions even insulting Hull City fans in the process. However, it ws the sale of Michael Turner for a incredibly low sum that lost Duffen his job, but mainly blamed Brown for not stopping the sale of one of the clubs prized assets.

With the appointment of Adam Pearson the Club looked like it was stabalising after a turbulent couple of years. Pearson said he would give Brown some time to sort out the club's on field woes. He attempted to off load some of the club's bloated playing staff. with only a modicum of success.

Pearson's tenure is tied very closely with the affairs of Brown and the team on the playing field but it appears that Brown's teams sporadic performances have blotted Brown's copy book.

Since the arrival of Pearson and Brown's stay of execution the team went on a mini revival gaining eight points from a possible 12 that coincided with the return of record signing Jimmy Bullard, but it didn't last as Bullard sustained another injury and the club's form dipped yet again.

Since Pearson's return the club have only gained 16 points out of a possible 54 points, with Brown's side not wining any matches away from home and only drawing two. This has culminated in the Tigers going on a loosing streak since early February, when the team beat Manchester City at the KC Stadium in one of Hull City's finest ever performances.

Despite the club languishing in the relegation zone three points adrift of safety, when the tenure of Phil Brown came to a close. Brown had lead the Tigers through heavy seas and seen the club through some highs as well as lows. Would the club have ever played at Wembley without him? Would we have won promotion to the top flight without him? Would we have had such a fantastic first season without him?

Whatever your answers, without a doubt it has never been boring with Brown at the helm.

Load More Stories

Out of Bounds

Premier League

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.