Brown’s got no axe to grind

Phil Brown
Phil Brown

Craig Salmon talks to Lancaster City boss Phil Brown ahead of this afternoon’s FA Trophy clash with his old club Stockport County

There will be no ill-feeling as far as Phil Brown is concerned when his Lancaster City team take on his old club Stockport County this afternoon.
The two sides meet this afternoon for what promises to be a mouth-watering FA Trophy first-round tie in front of a bumper crowd at Giant Axe.
City boss Brown spent around a year-and-a-half at Edgeley Park as Alan Lord’s assistant between 2013 to 2015.
A former Football League club, who had reached as far as the Championship during the 1990s, County had fallen on hard times.
Having dropped into non-league, Lord and Brown were tasked with the job of reviving the club’s fortunes from their lowly position in the National League North.
Unfortunately, the pair were unable to get the club promotion and Lord fell on his sword in April 2015
Brown took control of the first-team on a caretaker basis for a short period afterwards and despite being keen on taking the job on permanently, he was overlooked in favour of Neil Young, who had enjoyed a successful stint in charge of Chester.
Disappointed at the time, everything has worked out well for the Preston-born boss, who is the head of football at the renowned Myerscough College. Just six months after departing Edgeley Park, Brown was offered the manager’s job at Giant Axe.
A former player of the club and assistant manager to Tony Hesketh, he had no hesitation in accepting the post.
And two years later, he guided the club to promotion to the NPL Premier Division after winning the First Division North title last season.
And today’s fixture represents the first time City have reached the first round proper of the Trophy in many a year.
“I think everybody at the club is looking forward to the game,” said Brown, who is also head of education at PNE’s Academy.
“It was a great draw for us when it came out initially – we knew it would be either Stockport or Southport.
“Obviously Stockport came through the replay and hopefully it’s a really good game.
“We are all looking forward to it – probably me more than anybody given my acquaintance with Stockport in the past.
“I spent about 17 months at the club and I loved my time there to be fair.
“It was a brilliant opportunity that Alan Lord gave me.
“It was obviously a good standard of football – the National League North – and obviously Stockport is a massive club.
“It’s a very well supported club and well run behind the scenes – they have a lot of very good people.
“We did not achieve what we wanted to achieve in terms of getting them out of the division, but I look back on my time there memorably.
“I did finish my time off there as the interim manager after Alan had stepped down with three games of the season to go.
“I got a bit of a taste of what managing a club of that stature was like.
“I really enjoyed it and to be honest there was a tinge of sadness when I left because I had had a good chat with the board at the end of the season.
“There was vacancy up for grabs, but they decided to go with an experienced manager in Neil Young and that was the end of my tenure there.
“But it was a very professionally run club, albeit they were part-time.
“The fan base was still there – I think my final home game in charge, there were 3,500 on against Harrogate Town.
“It was step up for me. I have been involved in Northern Premier League football for a long time and to go into the National League and everything about the club off the pitch – it was a notch up.”
While the heady days of the Championship appear a long and distant memory for County, Brown is convinced they have the potential to return to the Football League at some point.
“They are putting things in place to try to climb the pyramid again,” he said.
“I don’t see any reason why they can’t do.
“They have a good manager in Jim Gannon and it’s the same people behind the scenes who are die-hard County fans.
“Hopefully they can climb back to where they were, there will be nobody happier than me if that happened.”
While Brown’s affection for County is clear, he will be doing his utmost to earn victory today for his beloved Lancaster.
“After leaving County, I took another opportunity in coming to Lancaster,” he said.
“I’m very happy here. It’s a club that I have even more affinity to than Stockport for all sorts of reasons.
“Being a player, assistant manager and now manager, Lancaster is my club now and one which I hold close to my heart.
“We are thrilled to have got through to the first round proper of the competition.
“We think it’s a great achievement considering it hasn’t been done for such a long time by a Lancaster team.
“We will be giving it our best shot to try to keep this run going.”