Even before Brown’s appointment, Clyde’s financial position had been in a state of constant concern, but when his investors began to withdraw their backing, the club were placed into a highly perilous position. Players signed on two-year contracts were asked to terminate their agreements in order to safeguard the club’s future, while squad members out of contract were immediately released. Brown himself was encouraged to stand down but the manager steadfastly refused, claiming he was determined to lead the club back into the First Division.
With only teenagers Connor Stevenson and Steven Howarth (both of whom had been on trial with Rangers the previous year) signed on for the 2009-10 season, the decision was made to host open trials to source players for the forthcoming campaign. A similar initiative undertaken by previous manager Graeme Roberts in the summer of 2005 was met with great success, with players like Michael McGowan, Tom Brighton and Stephen O’Donnell all signing on. But where Roberts was able to bring in highly motivated young players with a point to prove, Brown could only attract a troupe of lower league journeymen and dreck from the Junior and amateur divisions.
Brown assembled a dreadful squad of players. While Callum Reidford, Willie Sawyers and Alan Lithgow (whom no other club was prepared to entertain given his off-field indiscretions) can be generally regarded as relative successes, the rest of the squad were ill-equipped for the rigours of the Second Division: Alan McFadden, Jamie Doyle, Conn Boyle, Robert Halliday, Adam Coakley, Steven Odunewu and Mark Casey (once a trainee with Portsmouth) were arguably some of the poorest footballers to have ever played for Clyde.
Brown’s judgement was highly questionable – in a pre-season friendly against a Manchester United XI (which featured Ben Amos, Rafael da Silva and Gabriel Obertan playing for the opposition), he fielded his friend and former Rangers team-mate, 41-year-old Scott Nisbet. Despite Nisbet having effectively retired from senior football in the early nineties, Brown rued the fact he couldn’t afford to sign the defender from Arniston Rangers. The team was heavily lop-sided and Brown began the season with only one recognised centre-half in Lithgow and eight strikers on his books.
In their opening fixture against Peterhead, Brown awarded the captaincy to 16-year-old Stevenson. The club lost the match 0-2 and Stevenson was promptly dropped from the starting XI for several weeks. Clyde would go on to collect a solitary point from their opening five matches.
With the relationship between Brown and the Clyde support at its lowest ebb, a fans’ forum turned particularly sour. One member of the audience told Brown he lacked the ability to take the club forward.
“It’s people like you I’m going to prove wrong,” retorted Brown.
“Well if we get relegated, I’ll wring your neck!” joked the fan.
“Wring my neck?!” said Brown incredulously, failing to understand the gentle humour. And with that, he quickly left the assembly.
For their home tie with Stenhousemuir on 10 October 2009, fans planned a day of action and looked to increase the level of protest against their manager. Supporters arrived at Broadwood with “Brown Must Go” painted on bed sheets and the same slogan was chanted from the stands throughout the match. Although a 2-1 victory was secured through goals from Steven Howarth and Willie Sawyers (the latter, who claimed to have joined Clyde because of his admiration for Brown’s playing career with Rangers, celebrated by running to the home support with a finger pressed against his lips), fans began to leave the ground en masse after 80 minutes. They waited outside the stadium for Brown to continue their demonstration, but he never arrived – he had left the ground through a side door to avoid the crowd.
Clyde won their next match, beating Arbroath 3-0 at Gayfield, but failed to win any of their next five games. On 21 November 2009, Brown took charge of his side for the final time. A meek 1-3 defeat to East Fife was played out in front of 635 spectators, the lowest league attendance at Broadwood in over a decade. Speaking with the assembled press after the match, he took exception to a series of questions from the club’s online journalist and reacted angrily with a volley of invective.
“The supporters were frustrated that you spent a lot of time sat in your dugout in the second half again,” stated the reporter. “What would you say to that?”
“Oh fuck off,” winced Brown. “Whether or not I’m in the dugout, I’m the manager of the fucking club. So fuck off. Stick that on yer fucking website.”
Brown was removed as Clyde manager later that night. He won 17 out of his 65 league games in charge (26 per cent) and used a total of 68 players in his 80 competitive games with the club. With the exception of the 2007-08 play-offs, his tenure with Clyde had been an unmitigated failure.
He was replaced by John McCormack. “Cowboy” released the majority of Brown’s summer signings in attempt to correct the club’s downward trajectory but ultimately failed to keep them in the league; for the second consecutive season, Clyde finished bottom of their division. Brown, meanwhile, returned to Rangers to work as a scout before leaving his post last February following the club’s administration.
While Clyde’s financial difficulties have undoubtedly hamstrung their ability to create a competitive team, their brisk descent to the Third Division can be charted from the beginning of Brown’s management. Even with generous investment, he failed to get the best from a very capable pool of players; given his previous failures, one can only wonder how he was expected to manage on a shoestring.
Who knows what he will achieve at Dundee. Even on an interim basis, his appointment is still utterly baffling.
An enormous debt of gratitude goes to Sean Hart for his assistance with this article. He provided a large majority of the context, analysis, statistics and links and deserves a huge amount of credit for his help.
Sean is the curator of The Clyde Archive, the forthcoming online historical archive for the Bully Wee. Please take the time to follow him on Twitter here.