(NEW ROLE: Terry Brown has assumed the position of director of football at Basingstoke this summer. PICTURE: Action Images)
Even now, Terry Brown still hates losing. Fortunately for him it hasn’t happened too often in a managerial career that has spanned more than 25 years – and it isn’t over just yet.
Brown will always be remembered as the man who guided AFC Wimbledon into the Football League, where he won three promotions in four seasons. “I’ve never had to buy a beer there again!” he tells The NLP.
The 65-year-old doesn’t do half-measures. At Hayes, his first managerial job, he spent nine years, taking them from the Isthmian League to third in the Conference.
In five years at Aldershot he suffered two agonising play-off defeats but laid the foundations for their eventual Football League return. His shortest tenure of two years, at Margate, still brought about a promotion.
“I’m lucky that I’ve come from a generation where I’ve been able to build at the clubs I’ve been at,” he says. “I’ve had some great times. The fact that Hayes came within six points of Cheltenham, who won the league, is brilliant in itself.
“We lost both play-offs at Aldershot on penalties. I thought I was the unluckiest person in the world. To then actually win on penalties with Wimbledon to get into the League was the perfect memory.”
Since March 2016 he’s been reforming Basingstoke Town, a club that went from National League South play-off heartache, the year before, to finishing bottom of the division 12 months later.
Brown had to start picking up the pieces as their relegation was confirmed while uncertainty reigned off the field with the club owing £2m and being unofficially listed on eBay for 99p, which led to wide-spread attention.
Former long-standing owner and chairman Rafi Razzak sought to build a new ground but when his efforts with the local council proved fruitless he stepped down last May, writing off the club’s debt.
It paved the way for Basingstoke to be community-owned, a fresh start led by the vastly experienced Brown, who has moved upstairs this summer to become director of football, after guiding a young side to tenth in the Southern Premier League.
“We’ve had a project which was full-time with all youngsters and it’s been very successful,” he says. “We sold Robert Atkinson to Fulham, Aaron Jarvis to Luton. They were good sales.
“We’ve got three boys from last season’s team in the Jamie Vardy V9 Academy – Dan Bayliss, Sam Smart and Sam Deadfield. They’re in the shop window. We’re very conscious we have to be self-sustainable and we have to be a selling club.
“I say to young players they can come and play 30 games in front of a few hundred people in games that really matter. It’s a much better avenue into the pro game than in an U23 side.”
Jason Bristow has returned to be manager after guiding them to the play-offs in 2015, having run the club’s academy in the meantime, with Basingstoke set to line up in the new Southern League South at Step 3 next season.
There are more changes afoot with the club set to move out of their Camrose home early next year to the Hampshire FA’s headquarters at Winklebury, a suburb of Basingstoke.
A 3G pitch will be laid with the aim to sign proven winners and the best local players as the Dragons move back to a part-time set-up. Following relegation, their top-end National South budget was slashed by three quarters but Brown was still able to produce results despite the club heading in a more youthful direction.
The director of football role will allow him to watch even more games to hunt Non-League’s finest talent, but he admits one final managerial job is still a temptation.
“If the right post became available and it offered me the opportunity to win things, then that would be a bit too good to refuse,” adds Brown. “I’m still young at heart. I haven’t applied for any jobs this summer.
“I’ll have a look at this director of football role, I’m not quite sure if it’s going to be enough hands-on for me. I still get the pain of losing, I’m probably a worse loser now than what I was. Hopefully this will ease some of that pain or better still, we don’t lose too many!
“It will certainly add to the big black book of Non-League players I have; I watch every level of football.
“As you get older you get labelled with ‘dinosaur’ but not if you continue to learn and take on board new methods. It’s not about re-inventing the wheel; it’s about knowing what works. Little things where you’ve made mistakes before will help you not make them a second time.”
One of football’s trends is for players to move into management and some of his former players have too.
“I love seeing it, I love the fact after watching me scream and shout they still wanted to do the job! I went and watched Luke [Garrard, Boreham Wood] in the final against Tranmere. The progress he’s made is phenomenal. Nikki Bull has the opportunity at a good club in Leatherhead to build something. Sammy Moore has a good opportunity at Concord as well.
“I was a little bit disappointed for Jason Goodliffe that he didn’t have the chance to continue his work at Woking but I can understand the appeal of Dowse [Alan Dowson] who is a very good, hard-working manager.
“I always keep in touch with the managers and it’s especially nice when boys you worked with go on and be successful.”
But one of Non-League’s great managers won’t be giving up the game to them, for now.
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
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