Allan Duncan Brown 1926-2011

Allan Duncan Brown 1926-2011

Gerry Wolstenholme

blackpool1977-78aHe was born in Kennoway, Leven, Fife on 12 October 1926 and, after serving in the Army, he returned home to help his club East Fife win the Scottish League Cup and a runners-up spot in the Scottish Cup. Then followed a disagreement with East Fife and he refused to re-sign, going half a season without wages until his transfer was arranged.

He had played for the Scottish League against the Football League at Middlesbrough and had won three Scottish international caps so East Fife were looking to capitalise on their asset. Blackpool had been watching Brown for some time and chairman Harry Evans along with manager Joe Smith went up to Scotland on a fast train on Thursday 17 December 1950 and opened the bidding. East Fife were impressed with everything about the seaside club except the opening offer of £25,000 and its modestly increased follow-up but they did promise to give Blackpool one final bid after speaking with Liverpool, Portsmouth and Manchester City. Further discussions with Blackpool resulted in Brown’s transfer for a £27,250 fee on 19 December 1950.

Brown later commented on his move, ‘With the commencement of the 1949 campaign I turned a rebel after deciding I wished to play in English soccer and I didn’t sign a new contract with East Fife. From August to December, as a result of my dispute with the club, I worked at various odd jobs, both to keep myself fit and trim whilst also earning cash. In December the club eventually agreed to my transfer request and I moved to Blackpool.’ By then he had already purchased a house on the Fylde Coast due to his wife’s health and had taken a labourer’s job in Cardiff to earn enough money to keep his wife and two children.

He made his League debut for Blackpool against Charlton Athletic on 23 December 1950 when Blackpool won 3-2 when one national newspaper headline was ‘£27,000 Buy Made Goals’ as he had a hand in all three Blackpool goals. ‘In the 35th minute he hampered Bartram and the goalkeeper punched out. A weak clearance went to Perry, who lobbed the ball over for Mortensen to score with an acrobatic header.’ And ‘Four minutes later Brown placed a grand long pass to Mudie who raced through to score with a spectacular drive.’ Finally, ‘In the 53rd minute Matthews, who always seemed able to do what he wished with the Charlton defence, put on one of his dazzling dribbles and then put over his perfect centre. Brown and Mortensen both had shots saved before Mudie banged the ball home.’ The critic’s final (perhaps understated) comment, ‘Brown certainly made a creditable debut.’

joesmithHe was instrumental from his inside left position in Blackpool then embarking on a 13-game unbeaten League run, nine wins and four draws, plus seven FA Cup ties including the semi-final victory over Birmingham City after a replay. In the middle of this 20-game  run he scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 fifth round FA Cup victory over Mansfield Town on 10 February 1951 and then he opened his League account against Portsmouth on 3 March 1951 when he scored one from open play and one from the penalty spot. However his season was spoiled when he was badly injured against Huddersfield Town on 7 April 1951 and not only did he miss Blackpool’s FA Cup final against Newcastle United but he also had to pull out of the Scotland side due to play England at Wembley on 14 April 1951. At least he was presented with a special replica FA Cup final medal at a Blackpool directors’ meeting in September 1951.

Having had a cartilage removed in May 1951 he was fit for the start of the 1951/52 season but further injury in September caused him to miss five games, the only ones he did miss during the season. Having played all his games at inside left, manager Joe Smith sprang a surprise by switching Brown and Ernie Taylor for the game against Fulham on 8 March 1952. Smith commented, ‘Brown seems to use his right foot well and Taylor fitted in nicely at inside left. It’s another experiment that is worth another trial.’ Blackpool had won 4-2 with Taylor scored one of the goals.

In his final game at inside right, he scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory over Newcastle United on 7 April 1952 and, back in his accustomed position, he repeated the feat, in the space of five days, in a 3-2 victory over Stoke City on 12 April 1952 when ‘His goals, taken with the ease and grace of a great footballer, rewarded him for his tireless, intelligent work both in defence and attack.’  The feat made him the first Blackpool player to score hat-tricks in successive away games. His 14 goals in the season put him second in the Blackpool goalscoring charts to Stan Mortensen who had 26. In addition he had returned to international duty, appearing in three games for Scotland.

blackpool1951He began the 1952/53 season in goalscoring form, opening his account with one in the 2-0 defeat of Portsmouth on 23 August 1952 and at the close of the season his 15 goals made him the joint top goalscorer for the club along with Mortensen. However, tragedy struck once more for Brown against Arsenal in the FA Cup sixth round tie on 28 February 1953 when up to the point of the incident he had apparently given the finest display of inside forward play for Blackpool since the days of Peter Doherty, a performance that had Clifford Greenwood of The Green writing, ‘If Allan Brown was not the best inside forward in the country on the day he broke his leg at Highbury I have never seen a footballer.’

In scoring the winning goal in the 2-1 victory he broke his left leg following an accidental collision with goalkeeper Jack Kelsey. He quickly realised what had happened and when team-mates rushed to him he said, ‘The leg’s gone, leave me alone.’ Once again he was to miss the Wembley final, confined to watching it on crutches from the sidelines along with his injured pal Hughie Kelly.

He was only just overcoming his injury at the start of the 1953/54 season and as a consequence he began in the Central League side with manager Joe Smith explaining, ‘He is too valuable an asset to be rushed, particularly when the first team inside forwards Ernie Taylor and Jackie Mudie are playing so well.’ He returned to League action in a 2-1 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday on 17 October 1953 and then missed only four games for the remainder of the season by which time he had scored 11 goals in 26 games. Once again he was in the international side, playing his final seven games for Scotland after only one appearance in 1953/54. Overall he played 14 times for his country.

After the opening four League games of the 1954/55 season, when Blackpool had won the first and lost the following three, he was relegated to the Central League side as his manager said, ‘to restore his confidence’. He reappeared in the League side against Tottenham Hotspur on 25 September 1954 and ‘The Brown we saw against Spurs was as full of confidence as his shooting in the first half was wretched – and that is saying plenty. Then his marksmanship improved – under the coaxing of little Taylor, I should stress – and immediately all went swimmingly for Blackpool. Such a sequence of events might be prophetic. The two goals Brown scored – he can forget the misses now – should be a fine tonic for the player; his assertive, skilful football should help to stimulate a struggling side already heartened by this crashing win, made all the more palatable because it was a desperately long time taking shape.’

Blackpool won the game 5-1 and the longer term view was ‘Between them Taylor and Brown should be able to exploit the unusual pace and liveliness of Stephenson in the middle.’ Another critic stated, ‘Successes of the day, however, were Brown, back at last with all his confidence restored, and Ernest Taylor, who can be forgiven for his first half misses when one recalls the brilliance of his football in midfield.’ However, his season continued to be beset by injury and at its close he had played only 18 League games, scoring six goals.

Having been on holiday in Dundee and played for the club as a guest in a friendly game against Preston North End on 6 May 1955 when he scored the goal that won the game 1-0 for his side, he asked for a transfer after he was selected as outside left for the Central League side on 20 August 1955. But a club statement made on 23 August 1955 announced ‘The Directors have decided to turn down for the time being the request for a transfer of Allan Brown,’ with Joe Smith adding ‘It was considered that the first month of the season was not the time to transfer a player.’

Playing in the Central League side against Chesterfield on 27 August 1955 he was praised with ‘By every conceivable standard he was the best footballer on the field, whether he was a forward going through with the ball never a yard in front of his boots or a wing-half who could outwit a Chesterfield forward in one smooth dexterous move and send a Blackpool forward away with a dream pass.’ He was undoubtedly ‘the man-of-the-match’ as Blackpool won 4-1.

1953Despite his success in the reserve side, his unrest was still there and Blackpool eventually granted his transfer request on 24 October 1955 as Brown expressed a desire to return to Scotland.  Glasgow Rangers were reportedly interested but did not follow up their initial enquiry. Relations were smoothed over a little when Brown made a goalscoring return to League action in a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United on 5 November 1955 and by mid-December, re-established in the League side, he was taken off the transfer list at his own request on 12 December 1955.  ‘I’m happy that everything is settled,’ he said. But once again injury struck and he was only able to play two of the final 12 games, finishing the season with 18 appearances and six goals.

Always a keen golfer, in June 1956 he won the William Cartmell Trophy over 36 holes at Blackpool’s Stanley Park Golf Course in a field of 24 competitors but things were not quite so rosy on the football side for he initially refused to re-sign for Blackpool for the 1956/57 season. Dave Durie continued at inside left and Brown was left out of the side but once again relations were restored and he agreed to re-sign on 15 August 1956. He was restored to the League side at inside right against Everton on 27 August and he scored one of the goals in a 5-2 victory but once again injury blighted his season, and he was in and out of the side up to the time of his transfer. He had played 17 League games, scoring a most creditable 13 goals when he was transferred to Luton Town for a fee of £8,000 on 5 February 1957. His Blackpool career had encompassed 180 League and Cup games in which he scored 75 goals.

He went on to play 151 League games, scoring 51 goals, for Luton Town and won an FA Cup runners-up medal when they lost in the 1959 final to Nottingham Forest, having scored the sixth round winner that knocked Blackpool out of the Cup in a replay. He was transferred to Portsmouth in March 1961 and, winning a Division Three championship medal along the way, he played 69 League games and scored eight goals for the club before leaving at the end of the 1962/63 season.

He joined then non-league Wigan Athletic as player-manager in the close season of 1963 and in April 1964 he commented that it was ‘one of the most lucrative posts outside The Football League’. In his first season with the club he won the championship of the Cheshire League.

He was Luton Town manager from November 1966 to December 1968. When he joined the club he said, ‘They were really in the doldrums since I finished my playing days there, when they were members of the First Division. They were now in the second position from the bottom of Division Four with gates dwindling in the region of 4,000 spectators. My first task was to ensure the side moved away from the re-election zone, and I was successful as we rapidly moved up the table finishing the season in 10th position.’  He added, ‘My first complete term at Kenilworth Road was the 1967/68 season and Luton won the championship by a clear five points.’

Leaving Luton, he managed Torquay United from January 1969 to October 1971. This came about when ‘The Town chairman asked me if I would like to attend an interview for the Leicester City managership which had just become available. Despite having the chairman’s consent I suddenly, and unexpectedly, found myself, while being interviewed for the Filbert Street position, out of work at Christmas 1968 after having decided to work without a contract at Kenilworth Road. Frank O’Farrell, the ex-Torquay manager, also applied for the Leicester job and was successful in securing the position. I was later offered, and accepted, the Torquay managership and moved there with the security of a three-year contract.’

blackpool1977-78His managerial travels continued when he became Bury manager in June 1972 and then from November 1973 to January 1975 he was manager of Nottingham Forest before he took over as Southport manager in January 1976. But his stay at Haig Avenue was short-lived as he was to return to Bloomfield Road five months later.

He became Blackpool manager in May 1976 and he led the team to a fifth place finish in his first season and had the club pressing for promotion when he was controversially sacked in February 1978 after ‘confronting the chairman’, Mr Billy Cartmell. Blackpool had just defeated Blackburn Rovers 5-2 and were on the verge of the promotion pack so fans were enraged and immediately demanded the chairman’s resignation. The chairman did agree to stand down at the end of the season, when, winning only one further game after Brown’s dismissal, Blackpool were relegated to Division Three for the first time in the club’s history.

Two weeks after being dismissed Brown turned down the job of manager of Stockport County because he thought to be in a job as a manager would hamper his claim for unfair dismissal against Blackpool. And in late August 1978 he accepted a settlement of £7,500 compensation from Blackpool and the new Blackpool chairman stated, ‘Allan Brown thanked me after the match on Wednesday [Blackpool had defeated Ipswich Town 2-0 in a League Cup tie on 30 August] for settling the dispute amicably and thanked me for my friendship. Allan wouldn’t have got £3,000 if he had taken this to a tribunal. He was happy with the settlement and told others so in my presence.’

Brown accepted Blackpool’s offer of compensation because he had received what he termed a ‘fantastic’ offer to coach abroad and he moved to become manager of Quadsia in Kuwait. His wife said, ‘It is a job without pressure and the club are doing everything for Allan. We have got along fine since Allan was sacked, without pressure, without being caught in the midst of boardroom squabbles, without bursting any balloons. Allan did not mind pressure if there was gratitude with it but he got none of that at Blackpool. People have been so kind to us since the affair blew up. Milkmen, postmen, taxi drivers, so many people from so many walks of life have been on our side and it has been a comfort.’

After his spell in the middle east he, perhaps surprisingly, returned as Blackpool manager in March 1981 after Alan Ball had been dismissed but in the few games he was in charge he was unable to save the club from relegation to Division Four. After a 12th place finish in the bottom tier in 1981/82 he was once again controversially dismissed in May 1982 after which he lived quietly in Blackpool and St Annes and concentrated on his golf.

Allan will be sadly missed for he was a well-known face around town, a welcome visitor to Bloomfield Road and always had a friendly word when approached by fans.