Happy birthday, Ken Brown: Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Trevor Brooking and Norwich City heroes pay tribute to ‘the gaffer’

Former Norwich City manager Ken Brown with the Milk Cup at the 25th anniversary celebrations. Former Norwich City manager Ken Brown with the Milk Cup at the 25th anniversary celebrations.

Monday, February 17, 2014
9:25 AM

The man who led Norwich City to one of the club’s greatest triumphs has turned 80. MARK SHIELDS reports on how a special birthday book has triggered an outpouring of memories from across the football world for Ken Brown.

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Elaine Brown with the book she has compiled to celebrate husband Ken's 80th birthday. Photo: Bill SmithElaine Brown with the book she has compiled to celebrate husband Ken's 80th birthday. Photo: Bill Smith

The man who led Norwich City to one of the club’s greatest triumphs has turned 80. MARK SHIELDS reports on how a special birthday book has triggered memories from across the football world for Ken Brown.

It was in remembering another Norwich City legend of the dugout that Elaine Brown hit upon the perfect way to mark her husband Ken’s 80th birthday.

Swapping stories with friends at the funeral of John Bond, she was struck by the tragedy that he was not around to hear in person what his life had meant to all those gathered there together.

Elaine Brown with the book she has compiled to celebrate husband Ken's 80th birthday. Photo: Bill SmithElaine Brown with the book she has compiled to celebrate husband Ken's 80th birthday. Photo: Bill Smith

“All of his friends and family were there saying what a lovely man he was, and ‘I remember when John did this or that’,” she said.

“There were all these beautiful stories about John, and I just thought what a shame that he wasn’t there to hear them all.

“When somebody dies, everybody reminisces about the person and all their lovely memories come out. Why not let them know now how much they are loved?”

As Mr Brown’s landmark birthday approached, she toyed with the idea of asking family to pen a few lines on her husband, to present to him, but feared it could “turn into an obituary”.

Celebrations after winning the Milk Cup Final with a 1-0 win over Sunderland. From left to right, Chris Woods, Dave Watson, Paul Haylock and Steve Bruce.Celebrations after winning the Milk Cup Final with a 1-0 win over Sunderland. From left to right, Chris Woods, Dave Watson, Paul Haylock and Steve Bruce.

Shortly before Christmas, and with just six weeks to organise it, she decided to go with her instinct.

She sent letters detailing her plan to his former team-mates at West Ham United, where Mr Brown spent 14 years as a player, becoming one of the Magnificent Seven players to win the FA Cup and a European trophy, and Norwich City.

It was at Carrow Road that Mr Brown became a hero off the pitch as well as on it, leading the club to promotion twice and to one of its most famous every victories – a 1-0 win over Sunderland at Wembley to win the 1985 Milk Cup.

Within days, the messages had begun arriving – and they kept on coming, right up until 10pm on the night of the book’s print deadline, with Martin O’Neill anxiously phoning the printers in Old Catton to ensure they had received his faxed tribute from his family holiday in Barbados.

Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United manager

I can’t let this momentous occasion pass without me sending my sincere best wishes on your 80th birthday. I hope it is a fantastic day for you, your family and your friends.

I was always a great admirer of you as you were always a source of support and encouragement in my early days in management, plus you are a good man.

Have a good day Ken and I wish you and Elaine many happy days together and good health.

God bless,

Alex

The response she received shocked Mrs Brown, 59, who married Mr Brown 15 years ago. “I had imagined I would be presenting him with be a few sheets in a ring binder, but there were so many lovely messages that the printer suggested we bind it properly as a book.

“It was just going to be friends and family, but I had no idea how far it was going to go.”

The completed book includes contributions from people throughout Mr Brown’s life, from his grandson saying he wished he could have seen his grandfather make his England debut, to messages of thanks from the likes of Martin O’Neill, Terry Venables and Sir Alex Ferguson.

There is also a page dedicated to Joan, Mr Brown’s first wife, who died of cancer in March 1993, and with whom he had children Amanda and Kenny.

Sir Trevor Brooking, former West Ham United player and FA director of football development:

For me, Ken was probably one of the best ambassadors the club possessed, because he was one of the happiest characters I have ever known in the game, and was rarely spotted without that huge smile that was always on show.

It was great for us youngsters to see one of the senior players being so approachable, and was also a vital lesson for us all going forward of how to conduct ourselves.

Mrs Brown managed to keep the book a secret from her husband before presenting it to him last night at Potters in Great Yarmouth, where the family were taking a break to celebrate the birthday.

And having pored over every word in the book, she was quickly able to pick out the recurring themes in the tributes.

“It doesn’t matter what page you turn to, people talk about Ken’s smile, his cheerfulness and his kindness, she said.

“The only time you see him cry is when he gets emotional, so I don’t know how he’s going to handle this book.”

Steve Bruce, former Norwich City player and Hull City manager

Thirty years ago you gave me my chance to play in the First Division (now the Premier League) after playing in the lower divisions, a chance that other managers perhaps would not have taken. However, on my debut against Liverpool I scored an own goal and I’m sure you must have wondered what you had done giving me my chance.

To my surprise though you still had belief in me to play at the highest level of the game and to this day I still use some of your managerial skills especially in man management.

Wishing you a fantastic birthday Ken.

Best wishes,

Steve

Despite the revelation a few minor dressing-room secrets, it was the cumulative power of the messages that surprised.

“I’m absolutely gobsmacked at how everybody loves him so much,” she said.

“There was never a problem getting people to join in, because everybody wanted to help.

“It just makes me so proud to be his wife.”

John Deehan, former Norwich City player and manager

My career was going down the pan at West Brom when the manager asked me if I wanted to go on loan to Norwich. I arrived in Norwich with snow everywhere: I thought ‘this is going to be tough’.

I met Ken the next morning and he was so positive, telling me he had arranged a game at Yarmouth against Ipswich.

Twenty-four hours later we kicked off and basically I scored four goals in a 5-1 win.

Ken came in to the dressing-room after the game... looked at me and said: “IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO?”

The dressing room burst into laughter, and from then I knew this would be my club. I jumped at the chance to play for this incredible man.

You have an incredible approach to life, every problem is approached with a smile and you always see the brighter side of every incident.

Thanks a million.

See tomorrow’s paper to read a selection of tributes to Ken Brown from his former players, team-mates and footballing friends.

What are your favourite memories of Ken Brown? Send your birthday messages and memories to mark.shields@archant.co.uk

15 comments

  • Happy days. Ken was always one you could turn to. Even though I was "up north" at the time. Have a great day. You deserve it.

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    sharky

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • Happy birthday to a great man. Thanks for the good times and if you feel like a few months part time work get down to Carrow Road - they need you more than ever.

    Report this comment

    VictorM

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

  • Ken Brown, what a hero. It wasn't just about the quality of the football, it was about the quality of the man. Happy Birthday Sir, and thanks for everything.

    Report this comment

    Sean Kaye-Smith

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • I remember how sad I was when Ken was sacked as the city boss and was even more saddened when I saw his tears at the press conference afterwards. The club meant so much to him as he did to us as assistant manager and then manager. On the Ball Ken, never mind the danger. Here's to many more happy returns.

    Report this comment

    Greg

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • Happy birthday Ken - what a brilliant day that was at Wembley. Maybe you could give some tips to Chris Hughton to get us through the rest of the season!

    Report this comment

    Henry

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • This article and the memories it brings back for me has given me a warm glow and a big smile. Ken Brown was my favourite manager and I wish we could bring those great days back again! On the Ball City.

    Report this comment

    RichardGarratt

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • Great man.Great manager.

    Report this comment

    tonyb

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • In the photo you have up you say . . .John Deehan??? Er, think you'll find it's Paul Haylock, EDP. Are you all too young to remember 1985? :) Happy Birthday Ken. Happy memories!

    Report this comment

    NorthernLight

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • How lovely! A charismatic manager, solid defence and swashbuckling attacking football. Happy Birthday, Ken. Fond memories.

    Report this comment

    jigs69

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • Ken Brown was also a great supporter of grass roots football. I have happy memories of him giving up several Saturday mornings over the years when he was NCFC manager to present the Gt. Yarmouth Primary Schools Knock-out Cup to the winning finalists. He was always so generous with his time and his words of encouragement. Happy birthday, Mr Brown.

    Report this comment

    la barbe

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • Many happy returns, Ken, and thanks for the memories. I'm afraid the trophy cabinet has become something of a "website" since you left.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • good memories indeed! I remember Kenny Cooke of Dolphin Autos (RIP) fame loaning him a Rolls Royce with I think KEN10 registration after the Milk Cup win.

    Report this comment

    kevin

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • If only we had somebody like Ken managing us now someone with a personality that the fans could relate to

    Report this comment

    leslie cater

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • Fantastic man in all respects, I still fondly remember chatting to him about the team he built that ultimately was so successful under Mike Walker. Have one heck of a good one young man.

    Report this comment

    TrevorKeith

    Monday, February 17, 2014

  • Good old KB. Top man.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Monday, February 17, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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