Although the Southend side that arrived in Suffolk was mainly made up of youthful and upcoming youngsters, including a few ex-Trawlerboys, along with the travelling party came first-team manager, Phil Brown. Brown is a well-known name in the game, firstly as a player where he was a right-back for clubs such as Hartlepool United, Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool amassing over 650 appearances in all.
Brown later enjoyed success as an assistant manager alongside Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers between 1999 and 2005 before starting his managerial career at Derby County. It ultimately didn't work out there but Brown would find his greatest career success at Hull City in which he gained promotion to the Premier League in 2008 through the play-offs and then helped The Tigers avoid relegation the following season. During that Premier League season, Brown's side went on to secure important victories against Arsenal at the newly-built Emirates Stadium in what was only the Gunners second-ever defeat at the ground and wins against Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion also followed. Things took a downturn the year after and Hull struggled in the Premier League so Brown was relieved of his duties and put on gardening leave in March 2010 before oficially being replaced in the summer of 2010.
A spell at Preston North End followed before Brown arrived at Southend United when they were in League 2 and he has transformed the Essex side to a team that plays good football and gets results. Southend gained promotion to League 1 in May 2015 under his stewardship and finished 7th place last season, narrowly missing out on the play-offs and a potential return to the Championship by a point.
During half-time of Lowestoft’s 2-0 pre-season friendly defeat to a youthful but very efficient Southend side, I sat down with ex-Hull City manager and current Southend first-team boss, Phil Brown, and asked him a few questions over a bowl of chips.
Hi Phil. How impressed have you been with your side’s display so far?
I’m more impressed with the attitude more than anything else at the moment. With fitness levels, the ability will always come along. We’re not 100% fit yet, we’ve been back now two weeks and some of the players that are playing tonight were over in Spain with the first-team squad and you can see their professionalism is rubbing off on them. They have approached this game in the right manner and I believe they are deserved of the two goals and are perhaps unlucky not to have a couple more. It’s never easy, it doesn’t matter who you are playing against. The attitude of Lowestoft is bang on and it’s one of them when we have to be spot on in order to win the game.
Players like Nico Cotton, Harry Kyprianou and Nathan Bishop have all played for Lowestoft in recent seasons. Do you think it’s important to have that link with Lowestoft?
It’s important to have a link with any club that is progressive. I don’t just send them out to any old non-league club. We don’t say yes to any club. The club has to be run in a professional manner and run properly. We have to know that when we send players to these clubs that they are going to be treated in a professional way and looked after and that is why we have that link with Lowestoft. Our connection with Dale Brooks is a key factor and Dale is a good coach who knows what I’m after where players are concerned and how I want them to be trained. We believe that Lowestoft do that.
I know Lowestoft fans will be interested to know the next step with Nico Cotton. Will he be involved in your first-team plans this season or will he be sent out on loan to gain experience again?
He’s got closer because of the experiences that he’s had last year. He’s trained with the first-team and been away in Spain with them as well. He’s a prime example of what’s rubbing off from a first-team point of view. I’ve got some players at Southend now that have played at the highest level like Anton Ferdinand, Simon Cox and Michael Turner who we’ve just taken on board. We have now brought in Michael Kightly as well. These players can only rub off on the young lads in terms of their professionalism and their quality and hopefully they will all learn from it. Hopefully, you can see tonight that Nico’s attitude is a little bit better than what it was last season. With that in mind and with his quality, who knows where he could play?
A big thank you to Phil Brown for his time and I wish him all the best for the season ahead.
Updated 09:31 - 21 Jul 2017 by Sean Galea-Pace